WASHINGTON – New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello has never been one to shy away from shaking up his team. Consider the 11 different coaching changes he’s made- including twice naming himself interim head coach- since 2002.
But the one name that remains synonymous with the Devils’ on-ice success of the past 18 years and the one player that Lamoriello may never ship out of town is goaltender Martin Brodeur.
The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer is expected to start tonight when the Capitals visit New Jersey and while Brodeur’s best days are behind him (he finished below .500 for the time in his career last year at 23-26-3) his body of work cannot be ignored.
Brodeur holds NHL records for most career games played by a goalie (1137), most wins (627) and most shutouts (116). He is widely considered among the best goalies of all-time despite the inevitable drop in production the last few seasons.
“It’s not an easy task to play this long,” said Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun. “I’ve played a lot of games, but he’s played twice as [many]. For a goalie to play over 1,000 games is unbelievable. It says a lot about his durability and his skill. What a career.
Brodeur played in at least 70 games for 12-straight seasons, and led all NHL goalies in games played on six different occasions.
Finally during the 2008-09 season, Brodeur suffered his first major injury when a torn biceps tendon sidelined him for all but 31 games. Last year a combination of injuries limited Brodeur to just 56 games.
“He’s got a lot of mileage,” said Capitals forward Mike Knuble. “He’s been playing the game at such a high level for such a long time. The human body, especially at the goaltending position, can only take so much.”
Brodeur is 36-16-4 lifetime against the Capitals with a 2.28 goals-against-average, .908 save percentage and six shutouts. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
“I remember playing for coaches that just were so psyched out by him,” Knuble said. “They’d structure a whole game plan around keeping the puck away from him and this and that and [saying] ‘don’t get psyched out by Brodeur’, when [the coaches] are psyching their whole team out talking about Brodeur.”
Knuble could not remember at the top of his head how many of his 270 career goals have come against Brodeur but joked that whatever the total, it’s “not enough.”
Knuble, and every other NHL player for that matter, could be running out of chances to beat the NHL’s all-time wins leader. Brodeur is in the final season of a six-year $31.2 million deal he negotiated himself.
“I don’t care who you are, probably as a forward you get a little bit of a kick or a sparkle in your eye if you’re lucky enough to get a goal on him because he’s got that reputation… He’s a hall of famer.”
Catch the Capitals and Devils tonight at 7:05. Coverage begins at 6:45 with Caps Pregame on Federal News Radio, 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.