VOORHEES, N.J. New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur will turn 40 on May 6, the same day as Game 4 of the Devils' upcoming Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Flyers.
Hes older and slower, no longer the same lights-out Brodeur of the early 2000s, but the Devils netminder is still among the best in the league and hell be one of the biggest challenges the Flyers face as they attempt to defeat New Jersey and move on in the postseason.
Hes a good goaltender, coach Peter Laviolette said. You look at his numbers in the series right now, hes a good goalie. Hes been a good goalie his whole career. Youve got to give the guy a tremendous amount of credit. Hes one of the greats of the game, so weve got our work cut out for us. Its going to be difficult generating offense.
Brodeur struggled a bit during the 2011 season, but returned this year with a vengeance. He finished the Devils seven-game series against the Florida Panthers with a .922 save percentage, 2.06 goals-against average and a shutout.
The Flyers know he cant be overlooked.
Probably if not the best goalie that's ever played, in my mind, him and Patrick Roy are right up there, Danny Briere said. Everything he's done, all the records he's broken, it's pretty impressive. At the same time, we're there to move on. We can't stop with them.
During his 19-year career, Brodeur was awarded the Vezina Trophy (for the NHLs best goaltender) four times, brought home three Stanley Cups and participated in nine All-Star games. No other goaltender in the history of the game has more shutouts against the Flyers than Brodeurs nine.
This season, Brodeur was 1-3 against the Flyers, but his .905 save percentage and 2.26 goals-against average against them are nothing to scoff at.
He's proven time and time again he's a very capable goalie, Matt Carle said. One of the best, arguably the best to ever play. Not something you want to take lightly.
Facing the Devils legend is particularly notable for Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk, who grew up following Brodeurs career as a young hockey player in central New Jersey. Van Riemsdyk has a younger brother who used to play on a team with Brodeurs son, and struck up a relationship with him because of it.
That said, all friendships temporarily go on hold when players on opposing teams meet in the playoffs, and thats exactly how JVR views the series against the Devils.
Anytime you get on the ice, no matter who youre playing against, you kind of throw all that out the window, he said. Its obviously a cool thing, but at the same time, youve got to do your job, and Ill be doing my job.
Van Riemsdyks job and those of his teammates wont differ much from the Flyers first-round series against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers will still push to get pucks past the Devils defensemen, theyll still try to hit the net from all angles.
Theyll just be facing a netminder whos capable of stealing games as they do it.
We dont change our plan too much based on the opposition, Laviolette said. Minor tweaks and stuff like that, but its not like were going to change our identity of who we are. Pretty much set in stone with the Philadelphia Flyers.
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