Marty, Marty Marty….our old nemesis. We’ve been at this a long time. Ever since you were kind enough to give us MATTEAU! MATTEAU!, back in the ’94 playoffs. Marty Brodeur has had an unbelievable career and added plenty of fire and arrogant attitude to the rivalry the past 18 years or so. He holds many of the NHL’s goaltending records and is a sure fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. But let’s get under the hood of his style, even if he is not quite the force that he used to be. Same breakdown as always, general style, strengths, weaknesses, and how the Rangers should approach the matchup.
Marty is a artifact from a bygone era at this point. He started his illustrious career in the early 90’s and has diligently sheltered himself from evolutions of the position. It was only in the past couple years that he embraced new skates, a chest protector he didn’t wear in junior hockey, and wearing his pads a little looser. He plays by far the most old school style in hockey, relying on certain super-human skills (we’ll get to those momentarily) to keep his game relevant.
Marty also possesses an attitude a little too big for New Jersey itself. He is never afraid to vocally engage his opponents, the referees, or the league for that matter. His outspoken and aloof nature has drawn the ire of Rangers fans for years, and that attitude is a big part of his ability to intimidate opponents on the ice.
I was going back and forth between Marty’s biggest strengths as I was prepping this post, and there are really three big ones. His puck handling immediately comes to mind, but to me that’s the least important. I feel that his biggest strength by far is his other-worldly understanding of where he is relative to the net at all times. Modern goalies play a systematic style where the location of the net behind you is one of your primary concerns. This is where so many old school goalies faltered as the game got faster and more angular. Marty can still play that “fly by the seat of his pants” kind of reaction game, but his ability to find his way home has given him longevity that none of his 1990’s contemporaries could replicate in the new NHL.
Brodeur’s other major advantage is his skating and balance. We have discussed other strong skaters through this series so far, but if you have been watching Marty long enough, it almost seems like he walks on his skates. They are a part of him that does not limit his mobility in any way.
Obviously another big time skill Marty possesses is his ability to handle the puck. He is still the best in the game at it, owner of two legit NHL goals. Unfortunately for him, the trapezoid had severely limited his impact in this department, but something to be mindful of regardless.
As father time marches on for Brodeur, his style itself becomes his biggest weakness. The modern goaltending paradigm is based around efficiency of space and movement. The more surface area you can inherently cover and the most amount of net you can eclipse with the smallest amount of movement are the goals. Marty doesn’t really subscribe to either of these theories, but continues to play his signature reaction-based style. This opens up a ton of holes that you won’t find on more modern tenders, especially on morale-killing locations like wrap-arounds and other scramble plays.
Because Marty does not block the puck particularly well, lateral plays can expose him as well. Brodeur will still utilize the always fun double-pad stack to cover these types of plays, but rebounds become a big problem. He does a great job at absorbing the puck when he can, but low shots and lateral passes both create a lot of headaches for MB30.
How the Rangers should approach the matchup
Pucks to the net. That simple. Obviously the Devils play a variation of the neutral zone trap (check out Suit’s fantastic explanation of the evolution of the trap here). They generally try and keep the exposure to Marty’s game to a minimum and he still possesses fantastic reflexes and instincts, so you need to maximize the probability that a weakness in his game will yield results. Because his equipment is considered undersized for the current NHL, he is more susceptible to deflections than other goalies as well.
Driving the net is going to be a major component of the plan of attack as well. Because Marty can be kind of a rebound factory, its incredibly important to make sure someone is waiting at the door step. And because his style often finds himself out of position for second and third saves, that door step presence becomes all the more important.
Marty has not been a huge playoff performer since the Devils last won the Cup back in 2003, but he is the most decorated goalie of all time, and still could be plenty dangerous this spring.
When the puck drops between the Rangers and Devils on Monday night, we’ll see how much Marty has left in the tank.