Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur made his first playoff start against the Buffalo Sabres in Game 1 of the 1994 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. At the time, he was unknown and an afterthought. The average Devils fan and even the diehard Devils fan did not know what to expect out of him at the time. Not even the Devils knew.
Then-Devils coach Jacques Lemaire trusted his instincts by starting Brodeur in the very first game of the playoffs with the idea he could win some games in the playoffs. At the time, he and Chris Terreri rotated as Devils starting goaltenders.
Brodeur started Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers in 1994, and the rest was history. That was when he entered into hockey’s conscience and the tri-state area’s conscience. It was that series that defined his career, and it was then everyone knew he would be in the Hall of Fame one day.
That day arrived Wednesday afternoon when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It wasn’t surprising he was in at first try, even though he claimed to be nervous about the results.
Three-time Stanley Cup winner, five-time Jennings Trophy winner, four-time Vezina Trophy winner, 10-time All-Star, two-time Olympic Gold winner, 125 shutouts two-time Olympic Gold winner, 691 regular season wins, 28.928 saves, 1,266 games played, 74,438 minutes played, 14 30-win seasons, 12 consecutive 30-win seasons, 11 consecutive 35-win seasons, eight 40-win seasons and three consecutive 40-win seasons should have made him sleep easy to know he was a lock to be in. We are going to assume he was being modest like your typical hockey player.
Here’s another reason Brodeur should be in the Hall of Fame on his first ballot: The Devils don’t win three Stanley Cups without him. Sure anyone can talk about the scorers and defensemen the Devils have had for two decades, but without him being a game-changer and a difference maker, we don’t celebrate the Devils as a franchise.
He made spring around here interesting and fun for two decades. He was why the Devils had a chance to have long postseasons that lasted until June. There has been so many great moments he brought for this franchise. In so many ways, he is the best Devils player ever.
Remember the Devils had some good teams and good coaches before Brodeur got there, but the franchise’s ceiling was good but not good enough to be a champion. Everything changed when he was drafted and got his shot. There’s no question the Devils had great coaches such as Larry Robinson, the late Pat Burns and Lemaire, but as great coaches are, players win championships, especially if they are difference makers like the Devils goaltender.
As good as Devils goaltender Cory Schneider is, it remains to be seen if he can win a Stanley Cup for the Devils. Replacing Brodeur’s skill set would be tough for anyone to replace. In big games, no one was as good as Brodeur. His 1,134 playoff wins (second all-time) and 24 postseason shutouts (most all-time) speak for itself. Goalies like him don’t grow on trees, and no one can teach the skills that goalies like him possess. He was a once-
in-a-lifetime talent indeed.
One can make a case he is the best goaltender of all-time. That’s mutually inclusive of course. Anyone can make a case for Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden and Terry Sawchuk. Plus, it’s hard to know what Dryden and Sawchuk did when fans of the Brodeur generation never saw both of them play.
It doesn’t matter if he is the best goaltender of all-time or not. The bottom line is Brodeur did great things for the Devils. He took the franchise to heights they never experienced and may never experience again. He made this franchise into an elite one. Without him, Islanders general manager and former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello would probably never be a Hall of Fame executive.
His legend grows on as each year passes. He is one of the best athletes that ever played in New York sports. There’s a reason there’s a statue of him in the entrance of the Prudential Center. No one can talk about the history of the Devils without mentioning him. It’s hard to miss the No. 30 jersey of his that is up in the rafters of the Prudential Center.
That’s what winning three championships does for the team that he starred in.