Friday, May 4, 2007

Brodeur's Playoffs

I haven't posted much about the current playoffs, mostly because I don't believe in judging players solely by a playoff series or two, but also because I obviously haven't been as shocked as some at Brodeur's struggles.

I actually have been impressed by a few of the things Brodeur has done this playoff season, including performing well in overtime to improve his record in that department to 10-19, as well as to win 2 games where his team was outshot by 10+ shots, something he had only done 3 times in his playoff career before this season. I think he probably has some game stealing ability he hasn't previously shown, mostly because he didn't really have the opportunity.

However, on the whole he has been subpar. His save percentage is .919, which appears good, until you consider that the average save percentage in the playoffs so far has been .922, and many of the goals he has let in have been softies.

Because of his reputation, though, Brodeur sure gets cut a lot of slack by the media. His routine saves are described as masterpieces, and every time he plays a good game they write the same "Brodeur is back" article that has so far invariably been followed by another up-and-down performance.

New Jersey is still a solid defensive team, they still play the same defensive system and collapse down in front of the net to take away the most dangerous scoring chances, but they are giving up more shots than in years past. In terms of league ranking, this year and last year were the two worst years for New Jersey shot prevention since Brodeur's rookie season, and that has continued in the playoffs.

How's this for an amazing stat: Before the lockout, in Martin Brodeur's entire career the New Jersey Devils had only ever been outshot twice over an entire playoff series. That covers 25 series over 11 seasons of hockey, and both times were against President's Trophy winning teams. It's been different since the "New NHL" started, though. Last year both the Hurricanes and Rangers outshot the Devils. This year the Lightning matched them, and Ottawa has a significant edge so far. Brodeur's pre-lockout playoff record: 84-60. Post-lockout: 10-9. Coincidence? I think not.

With the shot totals no longer in his favour, Brodeur's margin for error is now greatly diminished, and some of those extra half-chances are ending up in the back of his net. We should not be tremendously surprised by a bad game here and there, or a soft goal here and there, because they can be found throughout Brodeur's entire playoff history, it is just that in the past New Jersey was usually good enough to make up for it. This year, it appears that Ottawa is too good for the Devils, as even when Brodeur is on his game, as he was in game 3, his team just wasn't good enough to win. It almost always comes down to the team in the end, rather than the goaltender, and usually Brodeur has been on the side of the better team. This time he isn't, so it looks like he is going to lose, it's as simple as that.

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