Boston Garden exploded into one last, volcanic celebration when
the Bruins scored their second goal of the game Sunday night.
The building shook as if Green Day were doing a sound check, and
a flurry of hats flew out of the stands and onto the ice. There
were still almost five minutes left in Game 5 of the Boston
Bruins' opening-round playoff series against the New Jersey
Devils, but the fans had seen enough of Devil goalie Martin
Brodeur to know this: Adam Oates's tip-in of a Ray Bourque wrist
shot would most likely be the last playoff goal ever scored by
the Bruins in Boston Garden.
For the occasion the fans decided to change the definition of a
hat trick. Instead of three goals by the same player, all the
Bruins needed were two goals in the same game against Brodeur to
set off the festivities. In this series, against this
goaltender, it was a reason to shout and throw away your
favorite lid. Brodeur had blanked the Bruins three times in the
first four games -- the record for an entire postseason is four
shutouts -- and the Devils' 3-2 win on Sunday wrapped up the
series, four games to one. Thanks to Brodeur the Bruins tied a
playoff record for the fewest goals (five) scored in a five-game
series, matching the mark set by the 1928 New York Rangers.
``I was a little worried,'' Brodeur said of the noise that
followed the Bruins' final goal. ``I thought the building was
collapsing. It was unbelievable. The building actually felt like
it was shaking.''
After 67 years in the Garden, the Bruins next season will move
to the state-of-the-art FleetCenter, which sits nine inches from
the Garden at the closest point. The Bruins may not miss the old
building when it's gone, but the Devils sure will -- New Jersey
won six straight playoff games there over the last two seasons.
In the 1995 regular season Boston finished five points ahead of
the Devils in the Eastern Conference, but with its
tight-checking, take-the-body defensive style, New Jersey was
virtually unbeatable on the smaller-than-standard ice surface of
Boston Garden. The only creature that went into the Devil zone
untouched on Sunday night was the lobster that was tossed onto
the ice in the second period. ``This is something we'll cherish:
closing down the Garden,'' said Brodeur. ``We made history here,
and I'm pretty proud of it.''
May 21, 1995
New Jersey hopes to make even more history before it breaks for
the summer. The Devils were one goal away from the Stanley Cup
finals last season when they dropped a heartbreaking,
double-overtime, Game 7 decision to the New York Rangers, who
went on to win it all. Now New Jersey appears more than ready to
take the next step. Brodeur stands confidently behind a group of
big, punishing defensemen who consistently smother the
opponent's rush before it gets started. When New Jersey has a
two-goal lead, it's like watching a game of tic-tac-toe in which
one player is allowed to make the first two moves. Like, what's
the point? Why bother? As sharp as Brodeur looked in the series
against Boston, he often went a period or more without being
challenged. The Queen Mother doesn't get this kind of protection.
``We played a lot of close games in the regular season, and I
think that really helps in the playoffs,'' says Brodeur. ``We
know how to play close games. We know how to hold on to a
Brodeur is like all outstanding young goaltenders: full of
confidence, afraid of nothing, intimidated by no one. His edge
does not come off with the pads that are stashed away until the
next game. He was bred for this life, this pressure, these
confrontations. He played in the same youth program as Toronto
Maple Leaf goalie Felix Potvin and Quebec Nordique netminder
Stephane Fiset. Brodeur's father, Denis, was a goaltender with
the Canadian team that got the bronze medal in the 1956
Olympics, and he later became a team photographer for the
Montreal Canadiens. Martin's bedroom at home in St. Leonard,
Que., still features photographs of his boyhood heroes,
including NHL goalies Patrick Roy, Ron Hextall and Sean Burke.
Many goaltenders would be jealous of the numbers Brodeur put up
in the opening round against the Bruins. He threw consecutive
shutouts in the first two games, both in Boston, making 23 saves
in each. In Game 1, a 5-0 victory for the Devils, he even got an
assist, setting up New Jersey's first goal. He stretched his
shutout streak to 149 minutes and 59 seconds before Mats Naslund
beat him -- the puck actually caromed in off the skate of Devil
defenseman Shawn Chambers -- in the second period of Game 3. The
Bruins went on to a 3-2 victory. They had a life. They were a
game away from tying the series. ``We had a little lapse for
about 10 minutes in Game 3,'' said Brodeur. ``But we picked it
up. We showed a lot of character.''
Brodeur snuffed out Boston in Game 4, turning away 37 shots in a
1-0 overtime win for the Devils. The Bruins were going back to
Boston for Game 5, but their hopes were buried somewhere in the
swamps of Jersey. Like, what's the point? Why bother? Brodeur
has a way of making you feel like you're wasting your time.
He earned his reputation as a big-game goaltender in the 1994
playoffs, following a regular season in which he had earned the
Calder Cup as the NHL's rookie of the year. In the first round
of the postseason, against the Buffalo Sabres, Brodeur lost a
1-0 decision in quadruple overtime in Game 6. He bounced back to
win the next game and then carried New Jersey all the way to
that double-overtime loss to the favored Rangers. He lifted the
Devils to a place they had never been before: Suddenly they were
respected, in the New York area and beyond. No longer were they
the Nets of the NHL.
As evidence of that, last week they figured prominently in an
episode of Seinfeld. In the show Elaine wondered about a
boyfriend who painted his face red-and-green in support of his
team, the Devils. The guy also wore an official New Jersey
jersey -- number 30, of course, with brodeur on the back. It was
not a bad bit of publicity for a player who had just turned 23
and had spent his brief career on a team that does little to
Brodeur has been the lowest-paid goaltender ($140,000) in the
NHL for the last two seasons, and at times his negotiations with
Devil general manager Lou Lamoriello have been testy. Last fall
Brodeur asked for $1.4 million a year, the average of the top 10
goaltenders in the league, but according to the goalie,
Lamoriello balked, offering a reported $750,000. After the
lockout Brodeur went into the season still under his original
contract, making the same money he made a year ago, and
proceeded to prove that he was no first-year fluke. He went
19-11-6 with three shutouts and a 2.44 goals- against average.
His negotiations with Lamoriello resumed before the playoffs,
and Brodeur says New Jersey finally came close to his asking
price of last fall.
It was, of course, too late by then. The price had gone up, to
at least $1.75 million. In the meantime he could be a Group II
free agent at the conclusion of the season. He could sign with
another club, but the Devils would retain the right to match the
offer. ``I would like to stay here next year,'' he said Sunday
night, ``but I know it's business. I'll do what I have to do.''
Brodeur would like to finish his business this season with his
hands on the Cup. Maybe that will happen in a month or so, after
three more series, each one more intense and grueling than the
last. It is a lot to ask of the lowest-paid goalie in the
league, to bring home the chalice, but Brodeur seems to enjoy
the challenge. In fact, if you look closely through the bars in
his mask, you might even see a little twinkle in his eyes.
``Sometimes people worry too much about the pressure in the big
games,'' said Brodeur. ``I just go out and try to enjoy it as
much as possible. We just closed out Boston Garden. Now that's a
really great feeling.''
It's also a pretty good start. One series down, three to go. He
made history in Boston last week. He wouldn't mind making a
little more before he goes home.
After only five games, Brodeur is one shutout short of tying
the NHL record of four shutouts in one postseason. Here are the
eight goalies who share the record and the number of games they
played when they made history.
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