By Larry Wigge
Marty Brodeur was surprised to learn the he was about to be playing his 200th playoff game Wednesday night. Some numbers, well, they come as a surprise to you even when you are 40. But ...
There was never any talk or even speculation that retirement was any conversation. The three-time Stanley Cup champion is having fun one again ... and this not about to be his Swan Song.
"For myself I always approach my game the same way," said the Montreal native. "I want to give my team the best chance to win. I'm probably not gonna steal too many games, but I try not to hurt my team and be there for them when they need me.
"Do you feel younger? Yeah, it's fun to look at these young guys. I feel like one of 'em. I have more experience than anybody, but when you're on a hockey team and part of something great, I think ages, experience, nationalities -- it all goes out the window. You're part of it, and it's been a lot of fun."
So are you even thinking about retirement should you win, Marty?
"I can't say no ... but I doubt it," Brodeur explained. "I know a lot of people say it's great to retire on top. But ..."
He completed the sentence with a tough of reality, saying, "At the end of the day, when I'm going to say 'It's over,' it's over. I'm not going to come back. I want to make sure I make the right decision. Right now I'm leaning toward coming back."
Even though this is the last year of his contract, you can bet GM Lou Lamoriello want Brodeur back.
"He has a personality that never looks back," Lamoriello said. "He plays it because he loves it. He works at it. He's changed his game accordingly to the way the style is. He's a student."
Changed his game? He's playing with larger pads than earlier in his career.
It's taken Brodeur 20 years to put together 656 regular-season wins and 105 shutouts. But retire? In the 2009-10 season, Marty played in a league-high 77 games. He had a league-high 45 wins and nine shutouts. Does that sound he was on his last legs.
Brodeur admitted that but for this season it might have been his last. Coming off a 23-26-3 record 2.45 goals-against average and six shutouts, he was thinking about it. He was constantly battling injuries. But ...
This year, Marty posted a 31-21-4 season ... and magic ... again.
"I really thought this was gonna be my last year," Brodeur said. "More and more, it was like, 'Wow, hockey's still fun.' "
"He"s an impressive guy," first-year coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's calm. He's been there before, and he's a calming influence on our team and in our dressing room. That's why he's the best of all time."
Mariano Rivera won his fifth championship just before his 40th birthday for the New York Yankes. Brodeur plans on tying his idol, Patrick Roy, with his fourth championship now and chasing his fifth just after his 41st.
"He is just a real thoroughbred athlete," Lamoriello said. "He loves the game. His mind is 100 percent there and he feels good. It's Mariano Rivera."
To those who say his style of play, which once was unique, is obsolete.
Dinosaur? Not Brodeur.
In terms of style, French-Canadian Brodeur could be viewed as a dinosaur because he is considered a hybrid goalie at a time when most prefer to use a butterfly style, which essentially means the goalie plays mostly on his knees. Brodeur plays sometimes on his knees and sometimes standing up.
"He gives us a chance to win every game," captain Zach Parise said. "When they put pressure on and guys are getting antsy, he has the ability to calm a bench down."
Voice of reason.
Remember all of those 1994 rumors. Brodeur's downfall to Mark Messier and Stephane Matteau.
"So now it's at least -- I don't know if they're going to give us credit, but it's 1-1,"
said Brodeur matter of factly.
Though he wouldn't say this victory exercised the ghosts of 1994, he didn't shy away from it.
"Every team writes their own stories," Brodeur said. "I was fortunate to be part of great teams that had success. I was part of great teams that didn't have success. Right now, we're having a lot of fun doing what we're doing.
"The success is coming with it right now. We have a lot of guys contributing. I think that's what's making a winning team. It's not just a one-man show out there. A lot of guys are contributing. But until you finish out these playoffs, we'll see then."
Lamoriello scoffed when asked about Brodeur performing so well at 40. He pointed out that some 30-year-old people act like they are 50, and vice versa. He said the same holds true for athletes, adding athleticism and genetics also play a part.
Brodeur refused to compare this Devils team to the ones that won Cups in 1995, 2000 and '03, or to the one that lost the Cup in seven games to Colorado in 2001.
"The love of the game is still there," Marty Brodeur said, "and the passion of playing ... and that will never change."