NEWARK – If the NHL didn’t already have 3.2 billion reasons to make peace with its players before next season, here’s one more. A lockout might cost them the services of arguably the greatest goaltender to ever play the game.
“The whole situation with the CBA could have a big impact on what I do,” Brodeur said at the NHL’s media day on the eve of the Stanley Cup final. “That probably is going to be the deal-breaker for me. If it’s going to be like last time, there’s a really good chance you ain’t seeing me back here. Not as a player anyway.”
That a work stoppage may be able to do what the rigors of playing 18 years and making 188 consecutive playoff starts has been unable to do is telling. It seems Brodeur would rather play than take an extended break despite the fact he’s now 40 years old. That speaks to how much he has enjoyed both his personal renaissance and that of the Devils, who take on the Kings Wednesday night in Game 1 of what should be a very interesting final.
“All year long, I really embraced being an older guy on the team,” Brodeur said. “It’s great to see them go. They work so hard and every night they go out and they care and you can see it in their face. It has been a lot of fun.”
The goaltending matchup should be an interesting one in the Stanley Cup final. At one end, you have the ebullient and outgoing Brodeur, who has the pedigree and the experience of a multiple Stanley Cup champion and future Hall of Famer. At the other end of the ice you have the painfully shy Quick, who held his interview session with his hoody over his hat and provided largely monosyllabic responses. But there has not been a better goalie in this year’s playoffs and when the Kings were having trouble putting a two-spot on the board during the regular season, his goaltending was one of the most prominent factors in their run to make the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
To be sure, Brodeur has been impressed with what he has seen from his Stanley Cup final opponent in the other net. Neither Brodeur nor Quick is the least bit hesitant about making his mark on a game – Brodeur with his puckhandling and hockey sense and Quick with his penchant for coming out of his net and daring opposing forwards to try to beat him on the deke or the back-door play.
“What I like about him is he’s an athlete,” Brodeur said of Quick. “He’s not just a goalie who’s going just make saves and not move and the puck isn’t just going to hit him. He’s going to go out and compete like crazy and it’s pretty spectacular to watch.”
When asked if there were any stylistic comparisons between a young Brodeur and Quick, Brodeur shot it down quickly. “Oh, I was never that flexible…and it ain’t getting better at 40.”
Quick, who grew up in Connecticut cheering against Brodeur as a Rangers fan, doesn’t look like the type of person who would be intimidated at the notion of going up against a future Hall of Famer on the biggest stage at the most crucial time of the season. In fact, he doesn’t look as though he would get phased by much of anything. Perhaps that’s a product of his success, or a reason for it. Either way, Quick is full marks as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and for his accomplishments during the playoffs. It doesn’t get much better than it has for Quick in this post-season, who has largely been lights-out throughout the playoffs.
But he’s also aware that Brodeur, while perhaps not the dominant goaltending figure he was earlier in his career, has been writing a compelling story of his own through the Devils post-season run. Brodeur has been spectacular at times and while he might not have stolen games for the Devils, he hasn’t lost any either. Sometimes that’s just as important. The distinction is not lost on Quick, who was quick, and concise, when asked what impresses him the most about Brodeur.
“He wins,” Quick said. “He just wins.”
Going into the final, both the Devils and Kings are getting some remarkable contributions from all four lines. Devils coach Peter DeBoer has not been hesitant of putting his fourth unit up against the opponent’s top lines and his team’s no-name defense – they actually have that inscribed on their water bottles – has proved to be more than the sum of its parts. The Kings are now playing the way everyone expected them to when they were picked as a favorite in the Western Conference. They’ve got the definitive advantage on the blueline and the team. That could leave goaltending as the wildcard in the final.
It will be interesting to see how Quick reacts to the pressure of playing in his first Stanley Cup final. You can bet the Devils will charge the front of the net with gusto, which should make for an interesting match-up on a couple of fronts. First of all, the Kings have done a tremendous job of clearing the crease area in these playoffs. And Quick has a unique ability to get a read on pucks by getting down and peering under the mass of humanity in front of him rather than over it.
“He’s fast post to post and he moves well and sees the play,” David Clarkson of the Devils said of Quick. “Like (New York Rangers goalie Henrik) Lundqvist, we’re going to have to find a way to get in front of him to get tips on pucks and get to those areas of the ice that are considered the dirty areas.”
Ken Campbell will be filing daily from the Stanley Cup final.