Martin Brodeur has faced some challenges these past few years. After snapping a ligament in his arm that left him out of the lineup just a couple of years ago, he returned to win his 552nd game to become the most winningest goaltender in the history of the NHL. He even claimed the shutout title from Terry Sawchuk not too long after that.
But now with another arm injury, many fear that this could be the end of the Brodeur legacy. Now that he has come back after rehabbing a bruised right shoulder, the question is, is he 100 percent?
“I’m getting there,” Broduer said. “I don’t think I’m 100%. I don’t think I’ll ever be. I got to play with it. The more and more I play, the more and more I get comfortable doing different things.”
In his first game coming back from rehab, Joffrey Lupul (Toronto) scored a hat trick on him in the Devils’ 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs. Within minutes of Lupul’s third goal, Twitter lit up with tweet after tweet from both media and fans saying that the legend was officially D-O-N-E. Keep in mind that this was his first game back after being out for three weeks. It was also the Devils’ tenth game of the season.
Any player can tell you that what determines the outcome of a game all lies in who controls the puck throughout the game. In that game, Brodeur’s teammates didn’t help him as much as they could have. There was sloppy defensive play. The term “shoddy defense” was a term used in the locker room later that night.
It could have been better. They could have made things easier for their netminder. It was, after all, his first game back after being out for three weeks with an injury.
Like anyone coming back from being injured, they have that fear of what they can and cannot do. It’s also a learning curve to understand what their body is now capable of and not capable of doing. It takes time to learn what your body can do, and what it can no longer do. This happens to everyone, including legendary goaltenders.
“My game is a little different,” he said. “I felt good later on…I was kind of a little slow moving around, just because I didn’t trust [the shoulder].”
“It’s always tough when you come back from an injury. You know that you didn’t fix it, you just rehabbed it. It’s a lot different than when you do a surgery or whatever. For me, it was a big test to go through the game.”
Patrik Elias faced the same issue when he returned from surgery back in 2009. He had a tough start, not being able to score and move around like he used to be able to do. But two years later, he was able to rise back to the top of his game and remain one of the most instrumental playmakers on the team. It just took him a few games to get himself back into the swing of things. No one judged him after one game.
For Brodeur, after spending many years as the franchise hero, the question remains…is his age showing to the point where he will have to retire? Or is this just an injury?
“The injury,” he chuckled. “Even if I was 22 years old, I would still be hurting.”
While others may question if he came back too soon, for Brodeur, he knows what he is capable of and when he is good enough to return.
“I feel pretty good,” Brodeur said of being back. “I’m happy to be back. It’s been a long three weeks. I’m just going through the business I need to do to get back to play as well as I can, to try and help the team moving forward here this season. I’m definitely happy about the way everything is coming together.”
With a team filled with new young players, a new coach, and injuries abounding, the Devils are at a better spot than they were a year ago. They are still finding ways to steadily grow and be better. They are not sitting around asking themselves why they can’t win, like they were at this time last season. They recognize each loss for what it is and can identify the problems and implement a new strategy to combat the issue.
They rank very high in the penalty kill, but very low on the power play. They have new guys learning how to play NHL hockey, and others working through an injury. There are new plays to learn and understand. All in all, right now is a learning period for everyone.
“I think we’re looking pretty good,” Brodeur said of the team. “I think we’re going to have other hiccups throughout the season.”
That is something to expect. It can work well one day, and the next day it could fall apart. As the Devils move to maintain their own consistency, they can rest assured that Brodeur has that one game under his belt, which was all he needed to regain his confidence in himself. It may have taken until the third period for him to find it, but he has it back now. He’s gone on to see 2 wins and 1 loss since that first game back.
As the team comes together in this first half, Brodeur will have some time to bring his A-game back. But keep in mind, just like Elias did, he’ll be working through his own bodily pains to remain at the top of his game. It’s just too soon to judge him.
Brodeur has been nominated for this year’s All-Star Ballot, along with his teammates Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. The All-Stars will take place in Ottawa this January. You can log onto NHL.com to vote.