Friday, April 18, 2008

Is Brodeur Tired?

With the New Jersey Devils trailing the New York Rangers 3-1 in their playoff series, and Martin Brodeur having given up a pair of soft game-winning goals, there is some talk going around that he is simply tired from playing so many games this season.

The same things were being said last year, when Vincent Lecavalier had his way with New Jersey and Brodeur for most of their first round series and the Senators made short work of the Devils in round two.

But does this explanation make any sense? This is a guy who has played 75+ games nearly every season for the last dozen years. Why is he suddenly tired?

Let's see how Brodeur usually does late in the season. If he is tired, he should be suffering a gradual decline as the year goes on. I looked at his stats for all regular season games in April, and, surprise, Brodeur has been consistently excellent to close out the year. His regular season stat line in April since the lockout goes 15-1-0, .934, 1.92. His 2007-08 performance was right in line: 3-1-0, .923, 1.98. Not too much evidence of tiredness there.

So to those claiming that Brodeur is fatigued, it appears that it didn't affect him while the season was still underway, and just happened to show up, by pure coincidence, exactly about the same time Brodeur started facing Lecavalier, Jagr, and Heatley.

New Jersey is no longer an elite team. Their team systems and development models just can't make up for the fact that they have lost too much talent over the last few years - Stevens, Niedermayer, Rafalski, Gomez, et al. They have continued to have regular season success, and even the current edition of the Devils is still able to beat Atlanta and Toronto in November almost every time with their efficient play. But when they get into the playoffs against the elite teams they just aren't able to handle them, and Martin Brodeur hasn't shown recently that he is able to be a major difference maker in the second season. Nothing wrong with that, really, a goalie can only do so much. Brodeur went 5-11-3 against the Rangers, Canadiens and Penguins this season, so it really shouldn't be too much of a surprise that his team would face an uphill climb to make a deep playoff run.

When well-known players don't deliver in big situations, people want to either blame them or make up excuses. Brodeur already has the reputation of being a superstar clutch winner, so it isn't easy to point the finger. The usual way to reconcile reality to reputation, therefore, is to claim he was "tired" or make some other excuse. I think a simpler and more accurate solution is that this year, just as last year, Martin Brodeur is playing against a superior opponent in the playoffs, which is something that has been pretty rare throughout his career. He has little margin for error, and is not playing at the very top of his game. The result is that he is getting scored on and his team is losing. No further excuses or explanations needed.


Anonymous said...

Superb post. Im going to link my blog to your site, feel free to do the same if you like.

Anonymous said...

"Brodeur is playing against a superior opponent in the playoffs, which is something that has been pretty rare throughout his career. He has little margin for error, and is not playing at the very top of his game. The result is that he is getting scored on and his team is losing."

I pretty much agree with that. Coming into the series, we knew that the Rangers had deeper forwards and a better team defensive system. Brodeur was the equalizer. I think even if Brodeur had a spectacular series, the outcome would be really close. But he's been basically average, and it's not enough to make up for the Devils' team weaknesses against the Rangers.

As to why he's been average instead of spectacular, I agree that the "tiredness" thing is hogwash. Randomness/variance is the culprit. Even an elite goaltender (which Brodeur certainly has been this season) will see his save percentage fluctuate quite a bit over a sample size of 125 shots.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to go with the many other anonymous posters here ... making a blog site devoted to tearing down the reputation of one of the better goalies in the NHL? I used to think all my geek friends playing World of Warcraft every night for hours at a time were pathetic.

Put this same effort into, say, politics. At least then you'd be making your world a bit better.

Anonymous said...

the real answer to this question has more to do with the team and less to do with brodeur. the whole "he is tired" argument is garbage, but the truth is that since the lockout, the devils have had below average teams in terms of offense, and definitely in terms of defense. brodeur is good enough for the devils to ride him to the playoffs, if he plays 70+ games. the thing is, once they make the playoffs, the devils are playing against the better teams in the league, and they get exploited. in order to have a valid opinion on this, you need to be watching the games, and anyone who watched the playoff games the last three years, but especially this one, can see that the devils defense, has been aweful.

game 1, 2008. brodeur blew this with a weak second goal. yet goals one, and irrefutably three in which the rangers break the offensive zone on a 2 on 3, and all three devils defenders pursue the man with the puck, leaving avery open in front, with a wide open net. these were the product of terible defense. goal 4 was a empty netter.

game 2... goal one was the product of colin white bumping brodeur out of position, not to mention the devils inability to contain jagr with the puck. goal two, was a case in which 4 devils emerged on 1 ranger, with the second ranger, avery, shooting thorugh a 5 man screen. again bad defense.

game three... first goal, was colin white giving up the puck at the goal line, although brodeur prbably should have stopped the resulting shot by dubinsky. goal two was on a 5 on 3 in which avery was uncontested in front of the net, receiving a perfect setup form gomez... goal three was again, a rangers powerplay in which dubinsky stood in front of the net, uncontested.

game 4... goal 1, was again, scott gomez left WIDE OPEN for a slam dunk into an open net, no goalie in the league stops that. goal 2was again a defenseive lapse. anyone following hockey knows that on 2 on 1, the defender is to take away the pass, this was a crucial part of the devils cup team, because defenders did this without second thought.yet here the defender pressures the shooter while remaining somewhat neutral, resulting in a wide open net for the onetimer by straka. goal 3 was again a defensive let down, with parise holding the puck in the defensive zone, uncontested for a few seconds, and then nonchalantly throwing the puck up the boards only to be held in by tyutin, resulting in a shot form the point, deflected in beautifully by drury. the deflection could not have been stopped by any goaltender in the league, but the point is, the opportunity shouldnt have occured.the final goal, number 4 by staal was partially the defense again failing to clear the puck, but nonetheless, brodeur should have stopped the resulting shot form the point. goal 5 was an empty netter.

game 5 was poor play on brodeurs behalf, his first, really poor game of the series. he faced 22 shots gave up 4 goals, three of which where hsots he had a chance at.

the point here being, is that you can not simply blame the failure of the team, on "brodeurs inability to play elite teams". elite teams, will exploit subpar defensive teams. brodeur obviously can play against elite teams, as is evidence in 1994, 1995 (in which every team the devils faced was seen as better, 2000, 2003, and 2002 in the olympics. not to mention his excellent play in all star games.
it is far easier for a goalie to single handedly lose a game for his team, than it is to single handedly win one for his team. most of the time, it is the play of the team that influences that goalies statistics, and in brodeurs early career, this helped him, recently, and probably in the future, it will hurt him.
look no further than henrik lundqvists season in which he recorded 10 shutouts only 3 of which he faced more than 25 shots, and in average over those 10 shutouts, faced only 20.4 shots a game. brodeur had 4 shutouts this year, 3 of which he faced 27 or more, and 2 of which he stopped at least 30 or more. not to mention there were 11 games in which brodeur faced 30+ shot and gave up 2 or fewer goals.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work/analysis.

I don't think this site is solely devoted to "tearing Brodeur down"... it's more of a goalie-evaluation site. In fact, you'll note the author praises Brodeur for his play the past 2-3 yrs.

Facts & stats rule.