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HOLY JUMPIN!: HOCKEY SENSE IS KEY TO BRODEUR'S SUCCESS

Tuesday, 03.17.2009 / 10:21 PM / Holy Jumpin! - a Blog by Darren Pang
By Darren Pang
I love my job.

Goaltending has been my life since I was six years old, and even though my first career went by rather quickly, it has been my second career that has given me the opportunity to sit down and talk goaltending, break down goaltending and watch goaltending on the television side.

I enjoy every facet of the game of hockey. I have coached minor hockey, been a goaltending coach for the University of Notre Dame when Dave Poulin was coaching and love the passion of coaching. But make no mistake; goaltending is what I enjoy most.

In 1995, I spent time with the Stanley Cup Finals goaltenders, Mike Vernon of Detroit and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils. Both guys have similar off-ice demeanors. You can have a conversation with them before a game, after a game and I bet if the team said yes, I could have interviewed them between periods as well. They are that much in control and able to handle everything that is going on around them.

New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur holds up the net after becoming the winningest goaltender in NHL history on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.)
I was in the broadcast booth and at ice level again in 2000 and 2003 when the Devils and Brodeur captured the Cup again. He never changed, no matter what the pressure felt like.

For Marty, it has been a longer journey as he has always been in the thick of things. The Devils have afforded him the victories. He has been the recipient of a great organization and a phenomenal system. That is not in doubt.

There are many out there that want to say that Marty would not have had a chance to break Patrick Roy’s all-time mark of 551 wins, which he did on Tuesday night, if not for the system in New Jersey. It is a neat argument.

Personally, I played on teams that were great defensively that didn’t give up many shots, but the one’s they gave up were of high quality, and at key times during a game. I had a hard time with no or little action. Many goalies have to have shots, give up rebounds and then get another shot to stay involved.

I grew up watching Ken Dryden and Rogie Vachon; opposite ends of the spectrum in size and the way they played.

Dryden played for Montreal. It was a tight, defensive system. Vachon played for L.A., which was all offense and all over the place.

New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur keeps his eye on the action against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night in Newark, N.J. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images.)
Dryden made one key save a period that could turn momentum, or lose it.

Vachon made spectacular saves, as they gave up a ton of shots. No one remembered the one goal he gave up that wasn’t great, as he had so many quality saves. He was better with many shots.

The microscope was always on Dryden. No excuses. His mental sharpness for a quiet time in the game was exceptional. The best ever…until Brodeur.

The best quote I have heard about Brodeur when it comes to the system or Brodeur comes from one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. I was on the team bus after practice and Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr and I were talking about the feats of Brodeur and I said he has the right demeanor and athletic ability along with the fact he has been in the right place, the right organization and the right system.

Fuhr says things the right way, quietly, but with confidence.

“The goalie has to fit the system as much as the system has to fit the goalie.”

Well said. What a perfect marriage.

Brodeur plays the position the way I love it to be played. He plays like an athlete. You ask any shooter in the NHL about going head-to-head with Brodeur and they likely start with this:

1) You don’t quite know what he’s going to do.
2) Is he going to poke check me if I try to deke him?
3) If I get that one-timer, will he stack the pads?
4) If I see room on the far post, is he just waiting to drag that far pad along the ice, like Bernie Parent used to do?
5) His glove is hanging low, so I should just fire it high glove…or is he sucking me in?

I have seen it all too many times. He has an uncanny sense about him. You want to know what it is really called?

It is called hockey sense. Goalies need to have it. There are some that are robotic and that is OK. But hockey sense is what it is all about.

New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur reacts to posting his 552nd career NHL victory on Tuesday night in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson.)
Jacques Plante had it. Terry Sawchuck had it. Johnny Bower had it. Glenn Hall had it and so did Esposito, Parent, Dryden, Smith, Fuhr, Hasek and Roy. Some had it more than others.

Brodeur sees the play develop. He knows the right-hand shots and the left-hand shots. He sees the weak-side shooter as much as the puck carrier, and knows that he is on his strong side or on his back hand if he gets the puck. That is also what makes him such a great puck handler. He skates to the puck well, already knows where he wants to pass it, or place it for his defenseman. He gets there. He has composure. He will go down in history as the most complete goalie of all time, not just the goalie with the most wins and the most shutouts, but the most complete goalie of all time.

It has been my pleasure to sit in the locker room and just talk goaltending with Marty. He loves his position. He loves the game of hockey and he loves stopping pucks. He has a real respect for the greats that he has passed by. Records are made to be broken, as Wayne Gretzky likes to say, but after Brodeur passes 600 wins…and he will…I cannot imagine anyone getting close.

Panger

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