After the Bronx Blowout, Martin Brodeur was relegated to baseball cap duty on the bench for the New Jersey Devils. He did not play a single minute since that game in January or February. It appeared it truly was the End of Brodeur. But with a heavy month of games after the Olympics, Brodeur would have return to the crease. He did, but not just to spell Cory Schneider. By month's end, he made nine appearances. What in the world happened?
Well, he did well enough in his return to game action. And the results were in his favor. Four straight wins meant he was in, even though they weren't all due to his great play. To be fair, Brodeur did have some good performances in March. Enough at the right times to barely make an argument for giving him more than half of the starts in that month, in retrospect. His final start of the month featured him getting unceremoniously pulled. His stats for March: nine appearances, a 5-3-1 record, 22 goals allowed, and a save percentage of 90.5%. It ended up being better than his December, at least. But the poor play piled up and so Brodeur would only return for the team's final two home games of the season in April. He gave up two goals in each one, honestly not so bad. The last game of the season was an arguably good one. He got a lot of love from the fans and teammates and deservedly so. Looking back on the 26 goals against him in March and April, though, I still scratch my head at the decision to have him play as much as he did.
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. Since Brodeur only appeared in two games in April and conceded only four goals, I decided to combine the last two months. Anyway, shootouts do not count, this is all for goals against in the run of play. 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 22 Goals Against Martin Brodeur in March 2014
|Date||GA#||Where Beaten?||GA Description||Soft?||Video||S.E.||SC?||Sit.|
|3/1||71||Between the legs||Vanek fires a shot outside of the dot. It goes off Gelinas, then Okposo's blade, and then through the legs.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/4||72||Over the shoulder||Franzen took the puck from Zubrus, beat Greene low, and fired a shot over Brodeur's left shoulder.||Yes||Link||Zubrus||No||PP|
|3/4||73||Past the right arm||Abdelkader goes around the net and finds Smith crashing into the slot. Smith fires a shot past a sliding Brodeur.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|3/4||74||Past the right leg||Nyquist finds Franzen open in the slot. Franzen takes a shot that goes off Bertuzzi's leg and goes right into the net.||No||Link||--||No||PP|
|3/8||75||Past the glove, left flank.||Sekera misses on a shot and Skinner collects it behind the net. He puts a puck off Fayne and it deflects into the net.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/8||76||Past the blocker||Puck gets loose and settles off Staal's skate. Harrison shoots clearly off of it and beats Brodeur cleanly.||Yes||Link||--||Yes||PP|
|3/8||77||Off the toe of the left pad||Brunner's bad pass is picked off by Staal, who springs Gerbe on a breakaway. Gerbe's backhander is touches off the pad and into the top corner.||No||Link||Brunner||Yes||SH|
|3/8||78||Past the left pad||Semin recovers puck in slot, turns, and shoots it low. It goes past the left pad as it comes.||Yes||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|3/11||79||Low, between the legs||Grossman attempts a shot from the sideboards. It was low, it went through Brodeur's legs.||Yes||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/15||80||Low, past the left leg||Kostka takes a wrist shot from the center point, gets by a screen, and tipped by Crombeen to get in.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/15||81||Past the right arm||Filppula moves it up to Palat, who found Kostka all alone in front. Kostka goes backhand as Brodeur goes down, puts it in around him.||No||Link||
|3/15||82||Low, between the legs||Brown leads a rush, throws a pass to the center for Thompson, who one-touches it throught the five-hole.||No||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|3/18||83||Low, between the legs||Smith finds Bergeron free behind the defense on a give-and-go. He makes the pass, Bergeron tucks a shot in between the legs.||Yes||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|3/18||84||High, past the glove||Marchand skates puck up, drops it for Bergeron, who finds Marchand open in the slot for a one-timer.||No||Link||Brunner||Yes||SH|
|3/18||85||Low, between the legs||Krejci makes a long pass to spring Iginla for a one-on-one with Brodeur. Iginla skates to left dot and fires one through the five-hole.||Yes||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|3/18||86||Past the blocker||Soderberg gets into the zone on the wing and finds Kelly open crashing to the slot. Pass, one-timer, goal.||No||Link||Merrill||Yes||ES|
|3/22||87||On the right side||Stepan tries to feed Kreider in front; pass goes astray and Brodeur is bumped. Nash from sideboards has a net to shoot at - and got it in.||No||Link||Fayne||No||ES|
|3/27||88||Low, between the legs||Amid a scrum, Chipchura goes around the net and finds a gap in Brodeur's five-hole.||Yes||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/27||89||Past the glove||Chipchura wins a puck from the boards and outlets to Summers. His shot gets through a screen and past Brodeur.||No||Link||--||No||ES|
|3/31||90||High, blocker side||Bjugstad draws attention on a shorthanded rush, drops it across to Kulikov. Kulikov picks the top right corner.||Yes||Link||--||Yes||SH|
|3/31||91||Over the left shoulder||Boyes wins a puck, goes around Zajac, and beats Brodeur high shortside.||Yes||Link||Zajac||Yes||ES|
|3/31||92||Low, between the legs||Olsen fires a shot from distance, Pirri deflects it low, and it gets past Brodeur, who slips on an invisible banana peel.||Yes||Link||Josefson||No||ES|
The following is a summary of the location data, which is not included in the big chart, of all goals allowed from Brodeur in March. Again, these are all relative to Brodeur's location; his left is left and his right is right.
And now April:
The 4 Goals Against Martin Brodeur in April 2014
|Date||GA#||Where Beaten?||GA Description||Soft?||Video||S.E.||SC?||Sit.|
|4/11||93||Under the left arm||Nielsen gets puck away from Jagr and springs Lee into space. Lee beats Brodeur under the arm.||Yes||Link||--||Yes||ES|
|4/11||94||Over the glove||Pick at the blueline leads to Strome with Greene to beat. He gets around Greene and puts one high past Brodeur.||No||Link||Greene||Yes||PP|
|4/13||95||Past the stretched out glove||Merrill blocks an attempt right to Marchand. Marchand right to Soderberg right to Ericsson on the left flank.||No||Link||Merrill||Yes||PP|
|4/13||96||Over the left shoulder||Soderberg jams at a rebound, Marchand comes in late and roofs it over Brodeur.||No||Link||--||Yes||PP|
Again, here's location data for the four goals Brodeur allowed in April.
Let's begin with March. Among the 22 goals against Brodeur in March, I counted ten as being soft. That March 1 game against the Isles gave him leeway and honestly, his first one,GA #72, wasn't the very worst of the bunch. I tagged it that way since it was a straight-up shot where he gave up the corner and got beaten there. Still, it wasn't until his March 8 game against Carolina where things took a turn for the worse. Two of those four goals against weren't bad ones to allow. Nate Gerbe's breakaway goal, GA #77, definitely counts as a breakaway goal that I wouldn't blame Broduer on. That it went off his pad was just bad luck; it was a tough spot to be in. The other two were. GA #76 was a clean shot in the slot, albeit a bit awkward at first glance since Harrison's shot was teed up by Staal. GA #78 didn't appear to be a clean shot at first but that Brodeur got his pad out late upon review indicates to me he saw it coming, he just didn't get it. It was a poor night then, yet the Devils got the win so he got another start. Brodeur did play rather well on March 11, except the one goal he allowed - GA #79 - was an undeflected and unblocked shot from the sideboards. That's always a poor goal to allow. Out of these four straight wins that kicked off his March, Brodeur conceded nine goals and four of them were soft. That's not good and sadly consistent with his play earlier this season.
Brodeur's results didn't carry on. He wouldn't get a win in the next four games. To be fair, the team - which has a lot to do between a win and a loss - didn't play all that well. On March 15 in Tampa Bay, Brodeur got beaten three times and none were soft. The team got bossed around by Boston on March 18. That one was a poor night for Brodeur. His five-hole was exposed on GAs #83 and 85. The other two that got past him weren't as soft but it begs the question of what could have been if his stick was on the ice or his legs were close together. I didn't fault Brodeur for GA #87, the lone goal by Our Hated Rivals on March 22. It appeared to me on video that Brodeur was still recovering from some contact to get in position on Nash's shot from the sideboards. I didn't think it was fair to fault him there. I did think it was fair to fault Brodeur for another shot through the legs on GA #88, the first goal allowed to Phoenix on March 27. It was a chaotic play but that's still not the time to leave an easy hole for the shooter. Still, Brodeur wasn't totally awful in that run in that I counted only three of those ten goals allowed as soft.
Then came that March 31 game against the Panthers. Brodeur started the game and then was replaced in the second period. Deservedly so, as he conceded three goals out of nine shots against. These were not good goals to allow either. No crazy plays. No moments of brilliance from the Panthers. On GA #90, Brodeur got beaten on an open, clean shot. On GA #91, Brodeur didn't cover the post and Brad Boyes made him pay for his error. Normally, I wouldn't tag a deflection as soft. Normally, a goaltender should be expected to be prepared for a shot coming - one was taken before the deflection - and have some kind of form. Or have their stick on the ice. None of ths was done and that's how GA #92 happened, complete with Brodeur slipping on an invisible banana peel. All soft in my eyes - I maybe talked out of the last one - and just abysmal that night. Funnily enough, the Devils were up 4-3 when the goalie change was made and the Devils won 6-3. That's right, Brodeur got the win that night. Over the month, this awful game really put him close to half of the goals against being soft. That it wasn't distributed equally speaks to how unreliable Brodeur has been in March and all season.
April was short but sweeter. Out of the four goals, only the first of them was bad. GA #93 was like GA #90. The skaters left something to be desired on the play but it was still a clear, open shot and Brodeur didn't come up with the save. I didn't think GA #94 was soft given the move Ryan Strome made before the shot. The final game of the season - and maybe as a Devil - was actually a legitimately good game by Brodeur. Neither goal allowed was soft. Neither goal was Brodeur's fault. It was a highpoint during a season where a save percentage around 90% for a month was considered good for Brodeur - but is objectively not good in today's NHL.
With respect to other findings, the plurality of the goals against Brodeur in March were low shots. Twelve, to be precise. That five-hole was active again, as seven goals went through him. Curiously, none of the goals against Brodeur in April were low. Maybe GA #95 could be counted as such, but I saw enough elevation to raise it up. In terms of goals against from shots taken in a scoring chance location, twelve of them in March were in that zone as well as all four in April. Among those, five in March were soft and one in April was soft. So a slim majority of the stoppable goals came from outside that zone. Given some of the loose play by the team, I did note a few more errors in these two months. There were a few goals against where I struggled to identify a particular player for doing something egregiously, so please forgive me if I didn't tag somewhere where I should have. Again, it doesn't necessarily absolve the goaltender; but it was a general observation I noted.
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 March and April? 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? How come he played so much in March? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Brodeur's performance in March and April 2014 in the comments. Thank you for reading. I'll try to have a summary up tomorrow of all of the posts. Here's a tease: it doesn't look good.