On Monday, Martin Brodeur accomplished a magnificent feat in shutting out the Buffalo Sabres, 3-0. The win was excellent for New Jersey all on it's own. But the shutout is what will make that game memorable. The shutout was Brodeur's 103rd career season shutout, tying him for the all-time record held by the legendary Terry Sawchuk. As you would expect, the milestone has garnered plenty of attention as well as articles putting Brodeur's shutout total into a larger context.
In my opinion, the two best pieces I've read related to this come from the SBN network. Gabe Desjardins, the owner and operator of Behind the Net, put up a statistical comparison to highlight how both Brodeur and Sawchuk went about earning those shutouts in comparison to an average NHL goaltender that played a similar amount of games. The comparison is very enlightening in that it proves that Brodeur hasn't declined at all in his 30s - he's been consistently great. Moreso than Sawchuk in his 30s.
The second piece is actually about Terry Sawchuk's life in hockey - a fantastic article by Bruce McCurdy at the Copper & Blue. How he was a "gamer" despite stopping pucks without regard to his uncovered face or his body. How he suffered in silence early in life, rose to prominence but was moved to other teams despite his dominance in net, and how he could "battle" in games but could never battle his demons which ultimately led to his demise. If you're into hockey history or you want to know more about Sawchuk, this is a must-read.
Given that Martin Brodeur is currently averaging a shutout every 9.96 games (103 in 1026 games), this record will eventually fall. And yet, if you allow me to go on a bit of a ranting editorial, I wonder where the patience is?
After last night's win over Carolina, here are a few headlines that I saw via Tibbs' morning links today (which I'm sure you read):
No record, but Brodeur and Devils beat 'Canes, 4-2 - (The Bergen Record)
No shutout record for Brodeur tonight - (Fire & Ice)
No shutout for Martin Brodeur, but NJ Devils earn 4-2 victory over Carolina Hurricanes - (The Star Ledger)
Brodeur doesn't get the record BUT the Devils win. Why is there a but? It almost reads as if the Devils won in spite of Broduer not getting a shutout. Is it just me or do I sense some disappointment when I read about how Martin Brodeur didn't break the record. As if the team winning is secondary (regfardless of how poor they looked in getting said win) to what happened that night. Keep that in mind while reading some comments from the end of yesterday's GameThread:
Here’s hoping they get this shutout record out of the way sooner rather than later. The longer it takes, the more pressure there will be to get it, and the greater the relief they’ll feel when they do finally get it… which I blame in large part for their poor play down the stretch last year. It’s like, "milestone reached, we can relax now." - elesias
Absolutely agreed, elesias. Better to get this record out of the way sooner than later. Its a little different than the win record last year because that was more of a reflection of how the entire team played. If the team couldn’t pull the win off, it wasn’t necessarily Brodeur’s fault. Shutouts are much more focused on the goalie and the truth is they can be random. But I do agree: its always better to relieve the entire team of unnecessary pressure. - Tim G
Now, my intent is not to call out these two commenters - they just raise a similar point to what I'm talking about. I fully understand the desire to want to see Shutout #104 happen. These are fair feelings to have. It would be a huge story and a historical moment for the league, along with the New Jersey Devils and Brodeur. However, that shouldn't mean that the story every time the Devils win after conceding a goal should be that Martin Brodeur didn't break the record. Are we honestly going to see this sort of thing until it happens? I hope not! It does a disservice to the team and the game that was actually played.
Shutouts are rare feats. It is not like a win or a minutes played or a games played (that will fall too) mark, where a goaltender has to be durable and play very well consistently for over 15 years. If Gary Bettman or some other NHL official was to follow Brodeur in preparation for the shutout, he or she could be logging some major frequent flyer miles. A shutout requires the goaltender to be perfect. No fluke goals. No opposition players catching a cross-ice pass that the goaltender has no chance on. No tip-ins or rebounds at point blank. This doesn't happen very often, which makes the achievement of racking up 103 of them so huge, much less surpassing Sawchuk. Should Devils fans be disappointed with every game that he wins but doesn't get a shutout? I hope not!
Likewise, as much as everyone would like to see this record broken ASAP, I doubt it is affecting the Devils' mentality. According to Jacques Lemaire yesterday, neither he, the other players, or the coaching staff aren't talking about the record as reported by Tom Gulitti. The record-breaker in question had this to say yesterday about the career season shutout record as reported by Gulitti:
"I wasn’t really thinking about that," Brodeur insisted. "I’ve tied it now. I’m not looking for it. It’s going to happen when it’s going to happen."
This is advice that should be followed by the Devils fans, the media, the history buffs, the Brodeur fans, and everyone else in between that is excited about the record.
Maybe Brodeur takes more than 10 games to get that shutout. Maybe it'll happen next season. But I'm confident he'll break it at some point and until then, the focus should be on Brodeur and the Devils continuing to get results (read: wins). Besides, I think we know exactly what we'll say when he does get his 104th career season shutout. We will point this to another example of how much of a legend Brodeur is, how consistently great he has been for New Jersey, how he ranks among the greatest of all time, etc. The headlines will be ready to go when it happens, I'm sure.
Don't mistake me, I'd love to see it at the Rock, but I'll gladly take wins if it doesn't happen. And there's a good chance it might not happen in the next 4 home games. But if the team and Brodeur himself aren't dwelling on the record, then why should we distract ourselves with it? Perhaps I'm overreacting, but I for one don't want to see this overshadowing everything else that goes on the with team until it happens. That's why I'm speaking up now about it. Instead, I suggest keeping our focus on supporting the Devils.