He can go unnoticed for entire games, then pop up with a key defensive play, or a goal like the one he scored off a faceoff with 0.2 of a second left in the first period of New Jersey’s 3-2 overtime win over Ottawa in Game 2 of their NHL playoff series.
He’s been that way for his entire 13-year NHL career.
“He’s a player who has done those types of things before, but because he’s not in a totally offensive role (it isn’t noticed),” said Devils coach and GM Lou Lamoriello.
“He’s done things consistently for us. He’s almost like the sixth man in basketball. He can go into any role and accept any job or responsibility and do it well.”
Brodeur and the 33-year-old Brylin are the only players still with the Devils among the five who played on all three of their Stanley Cup conquests – in 1995, 2000 and 2003. The others were Scott Niedermayer, now with Anaheim, and the retired Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko.
Brodeur’s all-world goaltending has had much to do with their success, but so have the disciplined, hard working teams that played in front of him, which have all included Brylin.
“I’ve been so fortunate to be on this team,” Brylin said Monday prior to Game 3 of the Ottawa series. “This organization sets the standard so high.
“Every year we have a good team and we always have a chance to do well in the playoffs. It’s unbelievable I’ve been here so long, but so have a lot of guys. We have a lot who won two Stanley Cups, so we all have that special feeling for the team. If I could play my whole career here, that would be awesome.”
Brylin, who is signed through 2008-09 at US$1.52 million per season, is also an iron man, having played in 246 consecutive regular-season games despite his smaller than average five-foot-nine, 190-pound frame.
While mostly a checking forward, he had a career-high eight power-play goals this season. He played centre and both wings, scoring 16 goals and 24 assists.
In his career, he has 292 points and is plus-54 in 683 games.
“I don’t know about being a sixth man in basketball – I don’t know much about basketball – but that’s what’s great about this team,” said Brylin. “We all have to make little sacrifices.
“I’ve played pretty much every position this year. It’s not easy some nights, but you have to do it. I have no problem doing it.”
“Sergei’s a fixture in New Jersey,” added Brodeur. “He’s really versatile.
“He’ll kill penalties, play on the power play, play 5-on-5, he’ll play on the first line or the fourth line. You play him anywhere and he never complains much because he knows that eventually, he’ll get his ice time because he plays in every situation.”
His goal helped offset a difficult playoff year for Brylin and checking line partners John Madden and Jay Pandolfo, who collectively were minus-20 for the post-season going into Game 3.
Matched against Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley in the opening two games against Ottawa, they saw the Senators’ top line do nearly all their team’s scoring and create multiple chances.
“They’re great offensive players,” said Brylin. “They’ve played together a long time and they have set plays and stuff.
“The first game, everything went wrong in the first period, but we settled it down after that and everything went a lot better.”
Heatley said his line has been able to bypass the Devils’ checking line and concentrate on pressuring the defence.
“We’ve played them enough and had that matchup enough in the last two years that we know their strengths and what they like to do against us,” said Heatley. “The key has been getting the puck in and forechecking, then you kind of take the forwards out of the equation.
“It’s getting on their defence and working the puck down low. Where they’re effective is staying above you in the neutral zone and not letting you get going, but I think we’ve done a good job of getting through the neutral zone and getting set up.”