Martin Brodeur makes a stop on Scott Hartnell. Brodeur showed up for the whole game. The rest of the Devils didn't. Fitting how Hartnell totally smokes his man here for the shot. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
From personal anecdotes, I've read and heard that Martin Brodeur needs to steal a game here or there to "prove" himself. To some, he's lost a step, he's tired, he's not that good, and so forth. Tonight was a huge piece of evidence against those theories and scuttlebutt. Actually, tonight's Game 3 showed that Brodeur's still the man.
Tonight, Martin Brodeur did just that as he was a wall in the third period that was completely owned by the Philadelphia Flyers. Brodeur absolutely robbed the likes of Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux (who re-directed a Kimmo Timonen pass past Brodeur's flank), Honorless Captain Mike Richards (point blank one-timer goal scorer, thanks to Mark Fraser getting wrecked to lose the puck), Daniel Briere (who did have a bigger night), and many more Flyers. It didn't matter if it was a breakaway, a rebound in front, a shot from either circle, a wraparound. Brodeur was the Martin Brodeur he always was and will continue to be tonight in Philadelphia.
He was only beaten on shots he had no chance at - plays where the defense in front of him got exposed. What doomed the Devils was that the rest of the team in front of Brodeur never got the offensive pressure or even the goal support past Brian Boucher. Oh, sure, the Devils scored two power play goals - Brian Rolston slapshots through Dainius Zubrus screens. But that's two power play goals out of 8 power play opportunities, totaling 13:27 of the game. That's two power play goals out of 7 power play shots - the Devils didn't even average a shot per power play tonight. In comparison, the Flyers had 5 power plays and 10 shots on net across 8:22. Forget the goals, power plays are the time to really put the opposition on their heels, not give them momentum; yet the Devils did that 6 out of 8 times on the road. That's just obscene.
Worst of all, the Devils put up a whopping 4 shots on net - and they weren't even high quality shots - in the third period and 3:37 of overtime combined. Basically, the offense collectively took a nosedive as the game went on. The puck movement - passing and carrying the puck - was unoriginal and ineffective. Faceoffs were all Philly, winning 32-26 including the big one near the end of the game. The shooting accuracy was groin-punchingly bad with 19 on net with 21 shots blocked and 20 missed. Yes, you read that right. More blocked and more missed as stand-alone numbers over shots on net. Upon reflection, it's bewildering that they scored two goals at all, never mind that they came on the power play.
As frustrating as that is on it's own, it's compounded by the Flyers' ridiculous lack of discipline handed the Devils chance after chance to make the game their own. The Devils didn't do so outside of Rolston's shots - they struggled with Philadelphia's PK units all night long, much less get shots through to Boucher. Even so, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette would be wise instruct his players to read the NHL Rulebook before complaining about the refs further.
The Devils were tied up at 2-2 going into the third and instead find themselves chasing Flyers and scrambling like crazy in their own zone to stop Philly, still requiring Brodeur to play as big as a mountain. The Flyers outshot the Devils 12-3, ending regulation at 28-18. Martin Brodeur gave this team a chance to pretty much steal Game 3 in OT.
Clearly, that didn't happen.
In overtime, David Clarkson nonsensically tries to skate through Aaron Asham, Asham plummets down, and he takes a minor. Don't fault the refs, aside from the fact that NJ had 8 power plays. They were calling lots of infractions - and they were largely legit calls, Clarkson should have known better to skate around Asham. Naturally, the Flyers strike on their power play. After several all-world saves by Brodeur and not long after the penalty was killed, a loose puck down low is knocked across by Honorless Captain and right to the wide open (by the way, this was your man, Travis Zajac) Actor, Daniel Carcillo (he faked being hit in the faced early in the game, the refs didn't bite) for the easy goal on Brodeur's flank.
Brodeur, he of 31 saves out of 34 shots, deserved far better tonight. If you honestly think Boucher was better or that Brodeur is at fault for the game or even one of those goals, then you don't know what you're talking about. Really, you would have to be incredibly thick-headed to put any of this loss on Brodeur. The Devils had opportunities they wasted, they didn't take initiative outside of the first period, and they literally faded. Brodeur didn't lose this game, the Devils skaters did. Absolutely awful.
What makes this feeling worse is that had the Devils won, momentum in the series would have been completely shifted. Now the pressure is on New Jersey to win Game 4 in Philadelphia with an extremely confident Flyers team. Where's the consistency, Devils forwards? Where's the calming play, Devils defense? Where's the heart, Devils players and coaching staff who are not named Martin Brodeur? Where in the world is the captain, Jamie Langenbrunner? Most of all, Devils, are you going to find what it takes to win by Tuesday? Thanks to this "performance," you really have no choice now but to do it.
In summary: Brodeur was great. The rest of the team slid into playing terrible in Philadelphia. The Flyers took full advantage as they should. The Flyers won the game 3-2 in OT (link goes to NHL.com recap) and now lead the series 2-1. Terrible.
Please leave all your thoughts, complaints, concerns, and feelings in the comments. Do keep them clean and I'd advise taking a deep breath before hitting that "POST" button. There's no need to compound the frustration and anger. After the jump will be the highlight video from NHL.com so you can see Brian Rolston actually contribute something to a game and
a selection (there could have been many more, like 6 of the 12 he made in the third) several Brodeur saves wherein he robs the Flyers. I might add more commentary, but not now. Maybe tomorrow when I can think more clearly and calmly.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate your support. Hopefully, the Devils team can provide some for their goaltender on Tuesday. Brodeur can't do it all on his own, no matter what some may think.