Nadir. It's not a common word but it means the lowest point. For example, January 2014 was the nadir of Martin Brodeur with the New Jersey Devils last season. The truth goes deeper than that, actually. His numbers from January 2014 were his worst since December 2010. That was a month where the team hit rock bottom under John MacLean. That was a month where Brodeur got hung out to dry over and over and over. I cannot say the same for what happened in January 2014.
In just five appearances, Brodeur conceded eighteen goals. Remember that he gave up nineteen in eight games in November. Recall that he gave up just as many in six games in October, which was a horrid month for Brodeur. With one fewer game, the save percentage is uglier: an abysmal 86.2%. In only one game did he concede less than three goals. It was the only game he won, actually. The notion that the Devils just "do better" with #30 behind them suffered a proverbial punch to the stomach with these five games. The last one was the worst: the Stadium Series game against Our Hated Rivals. Six against, two periods played, and Mike eulogizing the performance as The End of Brodeur. It was hard not to see as that back then. Especially since he didn't play a single game since then until after the Olympics. But as we know now, it wasn't the end. January 2014 remains as the low point of his season if not one of the lowest of his entire illustrious career.
About the Review
For those of you who are unaware of what I'm doing, this is part of my annual month-by-month review of the goals against each Devils goaltender in each game they played in. Shootouts do not count. I'm starting with Martin Brodeur as he's the pending unrestricted free agent. I will do the same for Cory Schneider later this summer.
I focus on identifying the "soft goals." Those goals against that should have been stopped by the goaltender. Here's how I am defining a soft goal: The goalie must have seen the shot coming; the shot was not deflected or change otherwise in motion; the goalie was in position to actually make the stop; and/or the goaltender made an uncharacteristic mistake that led to the goal. If the goal allowed qualifies, then I deemed the goal as "soft." In fact, the very last trait alone can make the difference in what is and is not a soft goal. Breakaways are done on a case-by-case basis; there I usually look to see whether the goalie has at least made an effort and didn't make it easy for the shooter. There's a very good example of what I mean in this very post.
In addition to that, I look for other factors. I identify where Brodeur was beaten on the goal. I note the game situation: even strength, power play, and shorthanded. I record whether the goal-scoring shot was a scoring chance. Any shot - not a deflection - from the crease out to the dots up to the top of the circles counts as a chance; anything outside of that does not. If I'm not certain, I will go against calling it a chance. Lastly, I denote any particular skater errors by a Devil on the goal allowed. I assign a skater error by name under "Errors" if the player did something significantly wrong that led to the goal such as a turnover or not covering their man. It's arguable that all goals allowed have an error or some kind; these are for the egregious mistakes made. I'm going to be more strict in calling them out. It also doesn't absolve the goaltender for a soft goal against.
Lastly, I have provided links to the video I looked at for each goal from NHL.com. This way if you want to see these for yourself and come to your own conclusion, then you can. These links will auto-play the video, so be forewarned when you click on them.
The 18 Goals Against Martin Brodeur in January 2014
|Date||GA#||Where Beaten?||GA Description||Soft?||Video||S.E.||SC?||Sit.|
|1/3||53||Off the cuff of the glove||Takeaway by Toews results in Sharp having a free shot in the high slot. With Merrill in no man's land, he beats Brodeur high.||No||Link||
|1/3||54||High above the right pad||Kane gains the zone on the left side and throws a puck to the middle. It goes off Saad's skate and then off Zidlicky's to go high past Brodeur's right pad.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/3||55||Past the right arm||Seabrook finds Sharp along the goal line. He tries to catch Brodeur unaware and does so by beating him high shortside on a tight angle.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/3||56||Above the glove||Henrique misses Ryder, allowing Keith to play it up to Toews for a counter-attack. Toews drops it for Hossa, who steps up and fires a high one in for a goal.||Yes||Link||Henrique||Yes||ES|
|1/3||57||Around Brodeur's left||Merrill tries to pick off a lead pass to Sharp. Fails. Sharp is on a breakaway and Brodeur goes for a pokecheck. Fails. Sharp goes around the goalie for his easy hat-trick goal.||Yes||Link||Merrill||Yes||ES|
|1/7||58||Past the glove||Giroux fires a wrister from the right point past at least two bodies. It gets past Brodeur far post.||No||Link||--||No||PP|
|1/7||59||Low, between the legs||A 3-on-2 gains the zone with Schenn. He feeds Hartnell across the ice. Hartnell puts it in five-hole before any help comes.||Yes||Link||Zidlicky||Yes||ES|
|1/7||60||Low, below the diving Broduer||Grossman winds up for a shot and then makes a diagonal pass to Schenn. Schenn takes it off the skate and then fires one past the diving Brodeur.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|1/14||61||Above the glove||Ryder turns the puck over at his blueline and Gorges springs Pacioretty for a rush. Pacioretty fires a clear high shot past Brodeur.||Yes||Link||Ryder||No||ES|
|1/18||62||Off Brodeur, below right arm||Chipchura beats Merrill to a puck, throws it back to Szwarz for a one-timer. Goes off Brodeur and in shortside.||No||Link||Merrill||Yes||ES|
|1/18||63||Past the glove||Halpern gets the puck, goes outside of the dot, and fires a shot to the far post. It beats Brodeur clean.||Yes||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/18||64||Low, around or through the body||Yandle fires a shot on net that Brodeur stops. Hanzal is right in front and jams the puck through before Brodeur grabs it.||No||Link||Salvador||Yes||PP|
|1/26||65||Above the glove of a falling Brodeur||Stralman takes a slapshot and it bounces off Volchenkov's behind. Moore puts home loose puck.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|1/26||66||Low, between the legs||Staal gets puck won off faceoff and fires a low shot from sideboards. It gets through Brodeur's five-hole||Yes||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/26||67||Under the stick, past right pad||Moore leads 2-on-1 rush, attempts pass to Zuccarello, puck goes off Zuccarello's skate and past a sliding Brodeur.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/26||68||Past the right pad||Brassard leads 3-on-1 rush and passes it across the slot to Zuccarello. Zuccarello delays and then puts it past Brodeur's stretched out leg.||Yes||Link||Gelinas||Yes||ES|
|1/26||69||Above the left shoulder||Hagelin wins a dumped-in puck and curls around to outside of the left circle. He fires a wrister that deflects off Zidlicky and goes past Brodeur's shoulder.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|1/26||70||Low, between the legs||Greene gets stood up at blueline by Stralman, Staal sets up Stepan on 3-on-1 rush. Stepan passes across to Nash, who beats Brodeur five-hole.||Yes||Link||Greene||Yes||ES|
As a summary of the location data, not included in the big chart, here's the location of all goals allowed from Brodeur in January. Again, these are all relative to Brodeur's location; his left is left and his right is right.
Amazingly, I only counted eight soft goals out of eighteen. I honestly expected more considering how bad October went and how these games went. Since there were only five appearances, let's go through each one.
The first game against Chicago was lost prior to the two soft ones, GAs #56 and 57, that stretched the score. I was did have to check two other goals from that game multiple times. He was screened on GA #53 so I didn't count that even if he did get a piece of it. As hideous as it looked to get beaten from the goal line, I didn't tag GA #55 because Brodeur had to go post to post and if he did it early, Patrick Sharp could have thrown it up front to Jonathan Toews for a layup. It was more of a bad spot than a failure in my eyes. I could be convinced otherwise. Still, seeing Brodeur beaten on an open shot and witnessing the pokecheck move fail again was sigh-inducing.
The January 7th game against Philly only featured one soft goal: GA #59. Scott Hartnell just beat him through the five-hole straight up. It'd be more forgivable if it was a one-timer; but no, there was time to get in position, Brodeur got in the area, but he left the legs too open. The other two against weren't really Brodeur's fault: screens on the first one and the entire team getting caught on the flank in a 4-on-4 overtime situation on the other. At the end of this review, I may want to see how many games where he didn't do so bad but still gave up a stoppable goal. I have a feeling it's a not insignificant number.
A prime example of that would be his January 14th game against Montreal. Brodeur was only beaten once, which was great. Unfortunately, the one that got past him was a bad one to allow. Max Pacioretty was sprung into space and just beat Brodeur straight up. No fancy move. No weird bounce. Just a shot Brodeur had a 100% clear vision of and didn't make the stop. GA #61 wasn't a fun one to look at. Thankfully, Brodeur did make all the other stops.
Of course, that didn't last. On January 18, the team came out slow against Phoenix and paid the price early. I didn't tag the Jordan Swzarz goal, GA #62, as soft since it was a one-timer and Brodeur had to slide to try and get to it. Brodeur nearly had it, actually. Normally, I fault the goalie on that but with next to no time to get set, I didn't. GA #63, on the other hand, was putrid. It reminded me that Jeff Halpern was still in the league. It was a shot taken from outside of the right dot and it beat Brodeur far post. Even if it was the most perfectly placed shot Halpern took all season, that was an awful one to concede. The Devils would play a bit better but Martin Hanzal got behind the defense for an easy put back of a rebound on GA #64. That ended up being the difference maker in another loss.
Let's recap: four appearances, twelve goals allowed, and a soft one in each appearance. The "Marty just gets results" argument doesn't even apply as the team went 1-2-1 in that stretch. He certainly wasn't playing well as of late. He didn't do all that great against the last game in NYC. He wasn't playing well all season. Based on performance, he didn't deserve to start this game. With that in mind, the only reason I can come up with as to why he got the Stadium Series game against Our Hated Rivals was because of sentimentality. You know what happened.
I will say this. It was an awfully poor performance by the whole team after the first period. The team did leave Brodeur out to dry plenty of times. And half of the goals against Brodeur involved unfortunate bounces. GA #65 doesn't happen if Anton Stralman's shot doesn't hit Anton Volchenkov's behind and dropped perfectly for Dominic Moore in front of the net. GA #67 went off Mats Zuccarello's skate; it wasn't even a shot. GA #69 was a rising shot that went off Marek Zidlicky's body, an unfortunate deflection. Bad things happen in bad games.
That said, Brodeur was definitely at fault to some degree on the other three. I think GA #64 may be the worst goal he's allowed all season, really. Marc Staal just throws a low, clear shot from the sideboards and it got in between the legs somehow. That goal hurt especially as it made it a one-goal game going into the second period. But it would still an obscenely bad goal even if the Devils were up by a ton of goals. It appeared to me that Brodeur stopped going across the crease on GA #66. Zuccarello delayed to shoot for a second and he was right to do so as Brodeur's right pad was just stretched out like an incomplete fence. Lastly, I kept re-watching GA #70 to see whether Mark Fayne inadvertently re-directed Rick Nash's shot into the net. I couldn't find anything definitive; it appears that Nash just beat Brodeur through yet another gaping five-hole. That would be the last goal Brodeur would allow that afternoon and until March 1. The most accurate way to describe it is that Brodeur deserved a lot of blame but not all of it for that horrid game. That and he never should have started it.
As for the month as a whole, nine of the goals against came from scoring chances. I didn't count deflections an re-directions, so there were a few more where the goal was created close to the goaltender. In terms of location, the lower shots held a plurality. The left side was a particular problem as four goals against came high to the glove side, three came at a mid-height, and three game went in low. Again, I was surprised I counted only eight soft goals out of eighteen. It's the only part of this month from him that wasn't a monthly low from 2013-14. I thought there was more. It's still pretty bad to know that just under half of the goals allowed were stoppable ones. It further justified the decision to keep him on the bench for a while. However, that did not last for the stretch run of the season.
Now you've seen the chart, you've seen some or all of the videos, and you've read the commentary. What do you think of Brodeur's play in January? Would you agree that he never should have started the Stadium Series game on January 26? Do you agree with the findings? Which of the goals he allowed was the worst? Which ones do you think weren't so bad? Who else, if anyone, should have be marked as making a significant error on a goal against? Knowing this, was it correct to bench him until after the Olympic break? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Brodeur's performance in January 2014 in the comments. Thank you for reading.