In the big picture, one can't really complain if you're still playing hockey in May. It not only means you've qualified for the playoffs, but you've likely advanced past the first round. For a team like the New Jersey Devils, who missed the playoffs entirely in 2011, escaping the first round series with Florida would normally be enough to declare the season a success. However, their second round match-up was against the second most hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Losing to a rival never feels like a success, especially in the playoffs. As the month began, the Devils were already down a game in the series and needed to bounce back.
Fortunately, the Devils were set in goal. Martin Brodeur was solid as solid could get in the Flyers series and was arguably better in the Eastern Conference Finals. As it turned out, Brodeur's performance in May would turn out to be his best month of the entire season.
|May 2012 - Martin Brodeur||11||685||8||3||0||21||1.84||288||267||.927||0|
OK, the Devils bounced back in the Philly series (and the NY series) for other reasons, but the fact that the goaltender didn't allow more than two goals on most nights really did benefit the Devils. And only twice did Brodeur let up three goals in a game (and they were wins). While he didn't have a shutout, Brodeur put up his best monthly save percentage at 92.7% of his 2011-12 campaign. Brodeur really was on point from the beginning to the end of this month. There may have been a few mishaps, but overall, these are some solid numbers for any goaltender.
As pleased as any Devils fan would be with his monthly performance, he wasn't perfect. It's those few mishaps that I'm more curious about. We know Brodeur allowed 21 goals in eleven playoff games. How many of those were goals Brodeur should have stopped? How many of those came from scoring chances, shots from the most dangerous parts on the ice? How did those 21 goals beat Brodeur? To answer those questions, I've reviewed every goal Brodeur allowed in May - right from Game 2 against Philadelphia to Game 1 against Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup Finals. Please continue on after the jump to see the results of the review and commentary on the 21 goals Brodeur allowed in May 2012.
About the Review
The main thing I'm looking for in this review are "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 changed 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 bit alone can make the difference in what is and is not a soft goal (e.g. GA #171).
In addition, I have denoted skater errors by player and scoring chances by "SC" in the goal description. I assigned a skater error if the player did something significantly wrong that led to the goal such as a turnover or not covering their man. As for scoring chances, that's dependent on where the shot was fired. Anything between the two faceoff dots from the top of the circles to towards the top of the crease would count. Basically, the graphic Jonathan Willis has in this article in the Edmonton Journal shows the area in question. Anything outside of that has not. I've erred against counting a chance if it's borderline, for what it's worth.
I have provided links to the video I looked at for each goal from NHL.com. These links will auto-play the video, so be forewarned before you click on them.
The 21 Goals Allowed by Martin Brodeur in May 2012: A Chart
|Date||GA#||Where Beaten?||GA Description||Soft?||Video Link||Skater Error|
|5/1||155||Low, below the glove||Read gets a second chance; Harrold may have deflected it but it got past a recovering Brodeur.||No||Link|
|5/3||156||Just past the right pad||Schenn one-times it near-post and it gets in. PPGA. SC.||Yes||Link|
|5/3||157||Low, through the legs||Carle gets open space in the left circle and fires a shot in through a screen.||No||Link||Clarkson|
|5/3||158||Just past the blocker||Brodeur stops van Reimsdyk's shot, couldn't hold onto it. Rebound fell to Briere at the near post for the easy put-back.SC.||Yes||Link|
|5/6||159||Past the left side||Giroux shoots from distance, the screening Hartnell tipped it in. PPGA||No||Link|
|5/6||160||Just over the pads||Giroux is sprung for a breakaway, gets around the pokecheck, puts puck just over Brodeur's pads and in. SHGA. SC.||No||Link||Zidlicky|
|5/8||161||On the goalie's right flank||Brodeur slides to deny Talbot on the one-timer; but Talbot smacks it in from the chaos on the rebound. SC.||No||Link|
|5/14||162||Past the right side||Girardi unloads a slapshot from the right point and it gets past the screened goaltender.||No||Link|
|5/14||163||Past the glove||Kreider gets sprung into a little space, flubs a shot, and it fools Brodeur. PPGA||Yes||Link||Volchenkov|
|5/16||164||Off the back of the right pad and then the glove||Staal takes a shot from the right circle, he misses, but the puck bounces off the backboards and into Brodeur - and then in. PPGA.||No||Link|
|5/16||165||Under the glove arm||Stralman fires a shot from the sideboards, it goes off the shaft of Kreider's stick and into the net. PPGA||No||Link|
|5/19||166||Past the blocker||Rangers win a faceoff, Girardi curls around the coverage and fires a shot that beats Brodeur. PPGA.||Yes||Link|
|5/19||167||Low, through the legs||Richards pass goes astray, takes a chip off Kovalchuk's stick, and McDonagh one-times a slapshot. Kreider deflected it right in front.||No||Link|
|5/21||168||Low, through the legs||Fedotenko takes a wrist shot from above the right circle and it somehow beats Brodeur.||Yes||Link|
|5/23||169||Low, under the right arm||Zidlicky turnover led to a breakaway for Prust, who slid the puck underneath the diving Brodeur. SC.||No||Link||Zidlicky|
|5/23||170||Low, through the legs||Anisimov fires the puck towards the net and it hits Callahan in the skate, which knocked it into the net.||No||Link|
|5/23||171||Low, right at his left foot||Brodeur comes out to play the puck but botches it behind the goal line. Gaborik takes it, shoots, Brodeur mishandles it and it's in.||Yes||Link|
|5/25||172||On the goalie's right flank||McDonagh goes for a wraparound but the puck goes into the crease. Fedotenko stashes it in on the flank. SC.||No||Link||Greene|
|5/25||173||Below the glove||Girardi fires a slapshot from the right point, the shot bounces off Callahan and below Brodeur's glove.||No||Link|
|5/30||174||Low, through the legs||Greene loses it to Nolan behind the net. He feeds an open Fraser in the right circle for the one-timer. SC.||No||Link||Greene|
|5/30||175||Low, under the right pad||Kopitar gets sprung for a breakaway. He makes two dekes, goes left, and gets it under the right pad. SC.||No||Link||Zidlicky|
Location of Goals Allowed
All locations are relative to Brodeur's position, not necessarily where the puck goes into the net. It's simplistic and generalized, but it's good for getting a count on where Brodeur was beaten for goals.
In this month, I counted six soft goals out of all 21 allowed by Brodeur. On one hand, that's a bit surprising that as good as Brodeur was in May, he's let up more than just a handful of bad ones. I did a double take when I saw that about 28% of the total allowed were soft. On the other hand, I suspect that any goaltender who plays a significant amount of time is going to get beaten on some soft ones. It just so happened to be six times. What's more is that they weren't necessarily back-breaking goals either. Let's discuss those among the 21 first.
Brodeur only allowed seven goals in the remaining four games of the series against Philadelphia. They were GAs# 155-161. Of those, two of them were ones I thought Brodeur should have stopped upon review; both came in Game 3 of the series. GA #156 was off a one-timer, which I normally don't count as soft. What made me feel otherwise was that the video showed Brodeur go not covering the right (his right, our left) post. It wasn't a lot of space, but it was just enough and it didn't need to be open at all. Similarly, what made GA #158 soft wasn't so much the goal itself but what made it happen. Daniel Briere scored on a rebound right at the crease, which isn't an easy stop at all. Yet, that rebound was there for Briere because Brodeur didn't hold onto the puck after stopping James van Reimsdyk. That mishandling resulted in a goal against and what was then an equalizer. Because of those two goals, I can see why some Devils fans thought Brodeur could still be shaky after Game 3. Fortunately, he was better in the remaining two games of the series both statistically and in allowing no soft goals.
During the Eastern Conference Finals, Brodeur only allowed twelve goals against Our Hated Rivals in six games: GAs #162 - 173. Of those twelve, I discovered that four of them really didn't have to happen. In Game 1, Brodeur got fooled on a open shot by Chris Kreider on GA #163. In fact, Kreider himself flubbed the shot; but because Brodeur saw it the whole way, I think he still should have stopped it. (Aside: And I think Anton Volchenkov was beaten badly on the play, too.) In Game 3, Brodeur was beaten by a non-flubbed, unscreened shot by Dan Girardi (GA #166). It was a tough play to defend as it came right off a faceoff; but that wasn't a good one to allow. It wasn't as heinous Ruslan Fedotenko flinging a long shot from the side boards on GA #168 in Game 4. Granted, it was only a consolation goal; but seeing that one go in was just face-palm inducing. The last soft goal came in Game 5, when Marian Gaborik got his sole goal of the series thanks to Brodeur misplaying the puck outside of his net. GA #171 was hard to watch as it included Brodeur not stopping a dump-in, scrambling back into the crease, almost holding onto the puck as he slides, and then just loses it into the net. It was surely comical for the Rangers faithful then; even though Brodeur and the Devils would have the last laugh.
One of the more interesting findings from these soft goals that only two of them were really significant. GAs #158 and 171 tied up the game at the time. The other four didn't lead to a loss or a win for either side; they were either answered for or didn't need to be answered. Incidentally, the Devils won those two games. The Devils took Game 3 in overtime and Ryan Carter broke the deadlock created by GA #171.
More surprising was that most of all of the goals allowed weren't from scoring chances. I only counted eight out of the 21 from being in that scoring chance range. Brodeur got beaten by quite a few deflections in May, which I don't count as a scoring chance. I counted five goals allowed off deflections of some sort: GA #159, 165, 167, 170, and 173. The last two came off Callahan's skate, too. So that's just below a quarter of the goals allowed right there. Throw in a few screens (GAs #157, 162), a total fluke bounce off the end boards (GA #164), and all four soft goals from the Rangers series, and it adds up to a Brodeur getting beaten more often from shots outside of that zone than within it.
In terms of location, May was the month to beat Brodeur low. Unless I missed something obvious, I don't think Brodeur got beaten high all month. A lot of these deflections, rebounds, and such were low. Even the three breakaway goals allowed (GAs # 160, 169, 175) got past Brodeur low. There wasn't a lot of elevation needed for one reason or another. I'd chalk it up to coincidence. I doubt all the pucks that got through in June would stay so close to the ice.
Lastly, this yet another month of evidence that a majority of goals allowed aren't soft, that Brodeur has allowed several soft goals despite having good numbers, and that it turned out well for the most part. I'd say advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals would count as "well." OK, Game 1 of those Finals took place in May too; and we found out in June that would be the end. Still, when fans look back to 2011-12, they remember the Brodeur from February onward as the reason why he had to be back beyond the lack of a viable starting goaltender replacement on the market. Yet, May should be held up as his apex as Brodeur was as good as one could reasonably ask for a goaltender - even including his errors. Of course, knocking out your second and most hated rivals helps.
Now that you've read the commentary and you've checked out some or all of the goals allowed on video, I want to know what you think. Would you agree that Brodeur's best month was in May? Would you agree that Brodeur allowed six goals he should have stopped? Which one of those soft goals were the worst in your opinion? What did you make of the other goals? Were you surprised as I was that a lot of these goals didn't come from scoring chances. Or that most of them didn't have an easily recognizable error by a skater? Please leave your answers and any other thoughts about how Brodeur performed in this month in the comments. Thank you for reading.