I posted the highlights of this game but that’s only about as much as I watched, specifically the latter part of the first period of our latest expected beatdown. I opted to watch the political program The Circus during the second period, so by the time I picked the game back up it was already over with the Devils down 5-2 in the second intermission. Again not an unexpected result considering the Jets are much better, considering hapless Cory Schneider was in net and considering this team has shown about as much interest in playing as the football Jets did yesterday afternoon in their own meltdown. That’s the way it’s going in sports for me lately…a heartless Devils team, a brainless Jets team and a clueless Mets team. To top off yesterday’s latest fiasco super soph Nico Hischier – who’s played every game as a Devil to this point – left due to a wrist injury, and his status for the four games in six days this week is unknown. It’s weeks like this where I think maybe I’m just better off not knowing anything about sports.
So instead of talking about this game or this team, I’d rather think about the past, which through 2012 was mostly good for two decades as a Devils fan in large part thanks to HOF goalie Martin Brodeur – who’ll be inducted tonight along with other distinguished figures like racial pioneer Willie O’Ree and mighty mite Martin St. Louis. For one of the few times I’ll bother to turn on the NHL Network to watch the HOF induction ceremonies, although I’ll be sure to skip the speech of one Gary Bettman, also going in the HOF in this class. At least he won’t get booed tonight, unless the other dignitaries want to humor the commissioner used to boos from hockey fans. To be fair, nobody’s influenced the league more profoundly during that period with both expansion into different markets and the labor wars which have led to three lockouts but also a much fairer economic system for a sport that couldn’t stand up to baseball FA-type bidding wars.
Still I’d rather not think about Bettman going into the HOF, especially given his checkered past toward our franchise with some of his comments seemingly wanting the team to move in 1995, and the draconian punishment for the overturned Ilya Kovalchuk contract in 2010. Tonight for Devil fans everywhere should be about Marty with a nod to the other greats like fellow Marty, who played most of his career with Tampa Bay and remarked about being 0-2 in the playoffs against Brodeur (we beat the Lightning in the 2003 and 2007 postseasons). Reminded that he too won a Cup, he pointed out they didn’t have to go through the Devils that year – we lost in the first round in 2004 when they had their Cup run.
Truthfully there are no shortage of accolades for arguably the greatest goalie of all time. If you go by the numbers it’s really no contest, where Brodeur clearly stood out was his durability. He played 70 or more games in twelve different seasons and 67 in another, only missing major time due to injury in 2008-09 when elbow surgery kept him out for four months of that season. Marty’s otherworldly win and shutout totals were only made possible by the fact he could go to the post like no other goalie and few other players. I doubt I’ll ever see another goalie play 1,266 games in my lifetime (and that doesn’t even include his 205 playoff contests), especially when fewer and fewer goalies are even allowed to play 70+ games in a season. Including playoffs Marty frequently played 80-100 games in a season total.
That’s the kind of durability it took to post 804 career wins combined between regular season and playoffs, 149 shutouts (24 of them in the postseason) – and be a backstop for a dominant team from the mid ’90’s to the early ’10’s under multiple coaches, and surrounded by countless teammates. It’s honestly amazing more goalies haven’t tried to copy Marty’s hybrid style of switching between stand-up and butterfly since the butterfly’s harder on a goaltender physically but also more effective in many cases to stopping the puck. Perhaps it takes a goalie with Marty’s intelligence to effectively play that hybrid style though…one of a kind, indeed. Not to mention his legendary puckhandling which resulted in no fewer than three goals scored and a contreversial rule change inhibiting goalies from playing the puck outside the dreaded trapezoid. I actually kind of thought the NHL would lift the trapezoid once Marty retired, but guess it’s here to stay.
I could bother to cite my favorite Marty memories but it feels like we’ve already been down this road during his jersey retirement and number retirement and I’ve hijacked a ‘recap’ enough as it is. Going back to the present, the Devils will honor their newest HOF’er (and their newest employee since he returned to the organization this offseason) before tomorrow’s home game against the Penguins. Maybe, just maybe the Devils will find it in themselves to do what they have rarely done over the last few weeks and show up with a performance worthy of the greatest. If not it’ll be the clearest symbol yet that the past is dead and buried, unfortunately.