While the playoffs were memorable in its own painful, unfortunate way; I want to take the time this weekend to point out my favorite memory from the New Jersey Devils' 2008-09 season. I invite you to offer your favorite moments from this past season. Maybe it was a massive turn-around win over a hated rival. Maybe it was an excellent goal or a fantastic save. Maybe it was a game where you got to jeer an opponent in a miserable loss to the Devils. Maybe it was something completely different.
But for me, nothing tops March 17, 2009. A 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Martin Brodeur's 552nd career win, becoming the NHL all-time leader in wins.
After the record-tying win in Montreal, there was definite interest buzzing for the St. Patrick's Day's game against Chicago. Would Brodeur break the mark at the Rock? Sure enough, he did with a 3-2 win over Chicago. I did my recap of the game, as usual, after that night. But even looking back on it, I don't think I fully conveyed what the experience was like at that game. When announcers or fans claim a stadium's atmosphere to be electric, it's usually a bit of an exaggeration. Not that night in Newark, New Jersey. Literally every save Brodeur made was greeted with adoration from the crowd. The chant of the day was "MAR-TY! MAR-TY! MAR-TY" from the unofficial supporter's group, the Crazies, up in Section 233 right on down to the lower bowl where the formerly silent were getting involved. Of course, I joined in and even as I saw Brodeur do what he does best literally thousands of times in the past, you can feel it in your heart that this was special. This went all game (save for a short "PAT-TY!" tribute when Elias became the all-time franchise scoring leader that night, or as you may say, icing on the cake), after the game when Brodeur cut his net, and even during his attempted address to the fans on the live P.A. system. Nothing but love for a goaltender who has earned it from his fans.
The love the Devils faithful have for Brodeur - an elite goaltender who has spent his entire career in New Jersey, loves the franchise to the point of having deferred money from his contracts back to the team, and has been a cornerstone in the Devils success from 1993 to present day - was rewarded with an undeniable accomplishment. Haters and critics in the past have tried to argue that Brodeur is overrated, that he's not as good as people claim, that he's only as good as the defense he has in front of him, and so on - all trying to make the point that he's not a legendary goaltender. But after March 17, 2009; such arguments cannot be made. While the case certainly could have been made earlier, on the evening of March 17, 2009, Martin Brodeur definitively became one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey history. And that is what I will remember best of all from the 2008-09 season.
Again, you may have a different favorite moment from the Devils' 2008-09 season. It can be a game, a goal, a highlight, a literal moment, etc.; it can be a show of greatness, perhaps there was some personal meaning attached, etc. Regardless, I want to know it is, so please share them in the comments throughout this weekend.