As Ottawa Senators left wing Magnus Arvedson can testify, Martin
Brodeur is a criminal. Early in the second period of Game 4 of
the Eastern Conference finals last Saturday, Brodeur, the New
Jersey Devils goaltender, was lying on his stomach in the crease
when he reached out with his glove hand and deflected Arvedson's
shot away from the wide-open net. It was robbery, but Brodeur
can't swear to what happened. "My eyes were closed," he says.
With a 3-2 series lead over Ottawa, following a 3-1 loss to the
Senators in Game 5 on Monday night, the Devils were on the verge
of their third trip to the Stanley Cup finals in four years, but
with Anaheim's J.S. Giguere mugging the heavily favored clubs in
the Western Conference, Brodeur has been the other goalie in the
postseason. "He's part of a new breed, and it's great for hockey
that people talk about him," Brodeur, 31, says of the 26-year-old
Giguere. "I'm not a young buck anymore."
Brodeur, who led New Jersey to Cups in 1995 and 2000, may not be
as young as he used to be, but he still has his looks. He was
brilliant in the regular season (2.02 goals-against average, a
.914 save percentage), during which he won 40 or more games (41
to be exact) for an NHL-record fourth time. Last week Brodeur was
announced as a finalist for the Vezina and Hart trophies for top
goaltender and league MVP, respectively. Surprisingly, he has
never won either award. "After coaching him, I'm wondering why,"
says Pat Burns, the Devils' first-year bench boss, who has won
the Jack Adams Award as best coach in Montreal (1988-89), Toronto
('92-93) and Boston ('97-98).
Giguere's play isn't the only news that has overshadowed
Brodeur's postseason performance. During New Jersey's last Cup
run Brodeur's wife, Melanie, and their kids (Anthony, now seven,
and William and Jeremy, six) got nearly as much face time on TV
for their cheering from the stands as Brodeur got for stopping
pucks. But last month Le Journal de Montreal reported that the
marriage was over because Brodeur had had an affair with
Melanie's brother's wife. (Other than acknowledging that he and
Melanie separated in December, Brodeur hasn't discussed the soap
opera in detail since the story broke.)
Despite the media attention and predictable taunts from fans on
the road, Brodeur has kept his focus. And because the Devils'
scoring ability is usually more like that of a World Cup than a
Stanley Cup contender, Brodeur has a smaller margin for error
than any goalie east of Anaheim. "If we make a mistake, he will
fix it," says Burns. "I've run out of words to describe
him." --Stephen Cannella
COLOR PHOTO: DAVE SANDFORD/GETTY IMAGES/NHLI JOY IN JERSEY Brodeur's spectacular playoff netminding has beensecond to one.