There's expected criticism of Martin Brodeur after the Devils' first round exit. But a closer look at the 15 goals against shows that Brodeur really didn't falter as much as one may think. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Once again, Martin Brodeur gets to shoulder criticism from the media and ignoramuses alike for allowing three goals tonight when not only he got zero goal support but you could count the Devils who just stood around as Briere scored his goal and Giroux potted in his easy second goal. Picking up an open player isn't a coaching issue, that's on the player at hand. When the Flyers did score, there was no sense of the Devils wanting to rise to the challenge. No indication that they want to respond by scoring themselves. That's just sad. Letting down the goaltender in this sense - a goaltender who's done his part in this series, this season, and quite frankly, his whole career - that's on the players.
Lo, and behold, I was right. Here are a few examples, I've noticed - thanks to Tibbs for linking them in the newsposts:
Steve Politti's post-mortem column claims that Brodeur should have stopped the first goal allowed in Game 5, claims he was outplayed by Brian Boucher, and jumps to raise the question - and I'm sure that's all he's doing - of whether Martin Brodeur is a big-time goaltender or not? He doesn't regularly write about the New Jersey Devils, so I suppose that should be kept in mind.
Stu Hackel of the New York Times' Slap Shot blog, who actually linked to my Game 5 recap (and the whole NoMeansNo bit, so you're welcome Wright Brothers and Tom Holliston, I got you a recent reference in the NYT's sports section), echoes Politti's question only using the third goal allowed in Game 4 as evidence. Granted, Hackel's post is a bit more even-handed.
"The Maven" Stan Fischler has never been afraid to jump feet-first into an idea, and in his post-series column he highlights a reader calling out "the elephant in the room." Said reader claimed that Brodeur "hasn't stolen a series," "let up way too many soft goals," and Maven doesn't disagree, calling out that third goal against in Game 4 that "deflated the team." Maven continues on stating how fatigue was once again an issue and it must be addressed and so forth.
These are just a few examples, but I'm sure they aren't the only places where these criticisms have been said about Brodeur. I'm sure some Devils fans may agree with them. Interestingly, they all call out specific goals but only Hackel is the only one to link to a goal (good for him).
However, I would like to point out that we live in a blessed era where NHL.com stores video of all goals scored in past seasons and playoffs. Since these columnists and arguments are predicated on the goals Brodeur allowed, I say let's go to the video tape and see what we can learn about the goals Brodeur gave up. How were they scored? Did Brodeur have a chance on those goals? How many really were soft?
Similar to what I did back in February, I looked at all 15 playoff goals allowed through NHL.com and recorded what I saw as how Brodeur was beaten, a short description of the goal against, and - most importantly - stored the direct link to the video of the goal at NHL.com. This way you don't even have to take my word for it, you can see the goals for yourself and come to your own conclusion.
I also decided on ruling on whether the goal was soft. That is, I watch how the shot came through Brodeur and determine whether Brodeur really should have stopped the puck. Mind you this means he must have seen the shot coming, the shot was not deflected or change otherwise in motion, he was in position to actually make the stop, and whether Brodeur made an uncharacteristic mistake that led to the goal (meaning: it wasn't a difficult shot to stop). If all were true, then I deemed the goal as "soft." Again, I've included links to all the goals against so you can make your own judgment.
UPDATE: Also: You're going to want to view this post in WIDE mode to see the whole table with the video links. You should see it in the box to the right of the headline. Just click on WIDE and you'll see it all. Thanks to my brother for pointing this out.
Lastly, for your knowledge, I would like to note that all the links automatically play the video at NHL.com.
|Game||GA#||Where was Broduer Beaten?||Goal Description||Soft Goal?||Video Link|
|Game 1||1||On Flank - to his right||Loose rebound at crease; Pronger put it in among traffic, possibly off Rolston's skate? PPGA
|Game 1||2||Above left pad; got a piece of it but went in.||Turnover in neutral zone; Laperierre dishes it to Richards at high slot, fires and scores||Yes||
|Game 2||3||On Flank - to his left||Asham trailed into the slot uncovered, took one-timer past a Brodeur diving to his left
|Game 2||4||Deflected shot - through legs||Carle fired off half-boards, Giroux deflected it right in front of Brodeur, puck changes direction through 5 hole. PPGA||No||Link|
|Game 2||5||Deflected and screened shot - through legs||While Pronger was screening Brodeur, he deflected a Timonen shot down and through 5 hole. PPGA||No||Link|
|Game 3||6||On flank - to his left||Giroux re-directed a Timonen pass down and across crease. Pass slid right past Colin White, who didn't have his stick down for some reason. PPGA||No||Link|
|Game 3||7||High stick side||Fraser loses puck behind net, Carcillo wheels around, feeds Richards who was wide open at the crease - one-timer goal. Brodeur hung out to dry||No||Link|
|Game 3||8||On flank - to his right||Richards picks up loose puck on side, Brodeur stops his attempt but the second attempt bounces to wide open Carcillo behind Brodeur||No||Link|
|Game 4||9||Glove side - possibly between glove and pad?||Carter puts a well placed shot far-post and the angle was enough to beat Brodeur. PPGA
|Game 4||10||Glove side - over left shoulder||Near-perfectly placed shot by Briere over Brodeur's left (glove side) shoulder. Brodeur was down in butterfly early - possibly could have had it if he stood up?||Yes?||Link|
|Game 4||11||Through his legs||Carcillo takes a shot and it slides through Brodeur's 5-hole. No reason why Brodeur's stick wasn't there||Yes||Link|
|Game 4||12||Low right side||Brodeur stops Pronger's shot but Carter is literally right in front of Brodeur as a screen and he pushes the rebound around Brodeur's right side. Nothing Brodeur could have done there, really. PPGA.
|Game 5||13||On flank - to his left||Uncovered Briere re-directs (with stick? Skates?) a pass to the slot past a sliding Brodeur. PPGA.
|Game 5||14||High stick side||Trailing Giroux gets a rebound in the high slot and fires a well-placed shot through a make-shift Devils screen.||No||Link|
|Game 5||15||On flank - to his right||Hartnell jams a rebound, it slides to Giroux in the slot who slides it low past a Brodeur who couldn't reach it and a Mike Mottau trying to block it. PPGA.
Here's what I concluded in looking at all 15 goals.
First: 6 out of 15 Goals Against Came on Brodeur's Flank
That is, the shot came in from Brodeur's side without him being aware, and the video for those goals show that Brodeur had no chance on those goals. When you hear or read about how teams need to get a goaltender moving or set up a shot on his flank or get a rebound to catch the goaltender unaware, this is what they're usually referring to. No matter how talented or well-rested or young or old or whatever a goaltender is, he's not going to stop something that's not in his field of vision, much less behind him, short of a miracle.
So Brodeur couldn't have stopped those 6 goals conceded on his flank even if he wanted to. On some of them, the guys in front of him should have covered the passing lane or the player who made the play happen on Brodeur's flank. On others, it was a rebound that got to a Flyer in the slot that couldn't be controlled by Brodeur or the defense.
Let me also point out to Mr. Politti that one of those goals was the same one he complained that Brodeur didn't stop. Yes, had Brodeur stopped that, then it would have been a huge save. However, flip the question - why would it be a huge save at all? Because it was a re-direction that's difficult for any goalie to really stop. Brodeur basically had to slide across and hope - hope - he can just get something on it. I can't fault him or any other goaltender for not stopping something like that. If you honestly felt he had to stop that shot, then I don't think you really understand what you were expecting.
Second: The Three (?) Soft Goals Conceded
Only 3 of the 15 goals (20%) could be characterized as soft: the second goal against in Game 1 by Mike Richards, the Danny Briere shot over Brodeur's shoulder in Game 4 (which was the game winner), and that oft-cited goal by Dan Carcillo that went through Brodeur's legs. Among those three, I'm a bit questionable on the Briere one. In my Game 1 recap, I thoroughly pointed out how that was more than just a soft goal but a collection of mistakes resulting in a goal. Brodeur could have positioned himself better so I stick with my "soft" label there. Mind you, it came in a period where the Devils were outplayed. The Carcillo goal was just a bad one that went through the 5 hole cleanly; I said so in my Game 4 recap and it still holds true.
The questionably soft goal, I originally didn't think Briere's goal was soft until I watched the video and saw Brodeur in a butterfly as he rushed up ice. Had Brodeur been standing up, which he normally does, he could have been in a better position to stop it. That all said, Briere's shot was just perfectly placed and fired like a rocket. It was by no means an easy shot to stop and therefore I'm not comfortable with calling it a soft one. I originally wasn't going to until I noted that Brodeur was down before the shot even went off, giving Briere that hole over his shoulder. Hence, I called it a soft goal and the question mark only signifies my misgivings.
Now, let's take a step back about the Carcillo goal. It and the other two soft ones are worthy of criticism. Now, there's this argument where that goal against is/was evidence that Brodeur let his team down in that game (and so he's not a big-time goaltender, he lost a step, etc., etc.) as the Devils were only down by one goal and the Devils were deflated afterwards. Not a bad theory, but it's not true.
In Game 4, something I specifically highlighted in my recap, the Flyers had the better of scoring chances and possession in the second period, and they carried that over into the beginning of the third period and through the rest of the game. I said that the source of the Flyers' victory came in the second period and the Devils didn't come out strong at all before the Carcillo goal - the Flyers took more initiative and had more shots early than New Jersey. Yes, it was a bad goal to give up, but unless we're watching different games, the Devils weren't any more deflated after the goal than they were beforehand. So I don't believe this thesis that Brodeur blew any chance of the Devils' winning Game 4 with the goal given up to Carcillo. To argue otherwise, requires enforcing revisionist history.
Going back to soft goals, is 3 out of 15 too many? In a perfect world, yes. Hypothetically, if we pretended those soft goals against never happened and all else being equal, all it would have meant that the Devils and Flyers would have been tied at 1 in Game 1. The Devils still only mustered 1 goal in Game 4 and the Flyers would have just won 2-1 anyway. Yes, I know it's pointless to pretend, but my point there's little evidence that the soft goals didn't kill the Devils in this series.
Third: Deflections, Screens, and Rebounds, Oh, My.
The above accounts for the 9 goals, but what about the remaining 6. Well, 2 (13.3%) came off deflections made right in front of Martin Brodeur. 2 (13.3%) more came off rebounds that got to Claude Giroux who pounded them home with good shots. Goal #7 was the one where Brodeur got hung out to dry and Honorless Captain Mike Richards cashed in a one-timer at the crease - the result of a Devils turnover behind the net. The remaining goal: Jeff Carter's well placed shot in Game 4 on the power play that just beat Brodeur far post. It was just a great shot, not necessarily a play where the Brodeur or the Devils faltered, in my opinion.
Again, if you honestly felt Brodeur - or any other goaltender - should have done better on those, then I don't know what to tell you. Those are exceedingly difficult shots to stop for any goaltender. If a goalie stops them, then he's not just good but a bit lucky since he didn't see the shot or the shot changed direction or faced a point-blank one-timer right at his crease.
Basically, I'm left with only 20% of the goals allowed being Brodeur's fault - 3 out of 15. Take those out and the Devils were still outscored 9 to 12. I doubt the Devils would have won the series. Maybe Game 1 turns out differently and everything changes, but it's pointless to hypothesize given that we know all too well what actually happened. And what really happened is reviewable. I don't see how anyone can look at all 15 goals against and then claim that Martin Brodeur didn't do enough or that he blew the series for New Jersey.
Likewise, I don't see how playing him fewer games or having a different goaltender in net prevents goals that really couldn't be stopped by nature of where the shot was placed (on the flank) and whether the shot was deflected or came from a rebound going awry.
Also, I feel that I must remind some of the media and fans that Brodeur tried mightily to take Game 3 only for the rest of the Devils to not pick up on it and support his efforts in the third period and overtime of that game. Asking, expecting, and/or demanding a similar performance every night isn't reasonable (standing on one's head is quite difficult after all) - especially if the rest of the team isn't willing to follow suit with increased efforts of their own. Even a legend can't win games all by himself, the guys in front of him have to help him out at both ends of the rink.
It's not that there's nothing to criticize Brodeur or the Devils for, it's not that articles written immediately after the playoff loss aren't appropriate, but one would think the criticism should be directed at more glaring and problems instead of the ones that may fit a narrative (e.g. he's old! he hasn't done anything other than just break records! etc.) or focus on what sticks out the most - like blaming the goaltender after losses despite what evidence is out there.
Do keep in mind that you don't take my word for it, you can watch all 15 goals against and come to your own conclusions. That's why the links are there. Of course, feel free to agree or disagree in the comments. Thanks for reading.