EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Although Martin Brodeur seems likely to return next season with the New Jersey Devils, the 40-year-old goalie also isn’t convinced their current season is over just yet.
While Brodeur acknowledges the enormity of New Jersey’s plight in the Stanley Cup finals, the three-time NHL champion has been in plenty of tight spots with teams playing a whole lot worse than the Devils, who must beat the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 tonight to avoid elimination.
“When you know you’re playing well and the results aren’t there, it’s hard,” Brodeur said after the Devils’ brief practice Tuesday at the Kings’ training complex. “We’ve got these breaks along the way to get where we are, but even though we’re working hard, we’re not getting the breaks now.”
New Jersey faces the prospect of becoming the first team swept out of the Cup finals since 1998, but the Eastern Conference champions realize how close this series has been. Coach Peter DeBoer echoes Brodeur’s feeling about New Jersey’s 0-3 deficit to the Kings, who could win their franchise’s first title on home ice in Game 4.
“I don’t think we feel we deserve to be in the hole we’re in,” the first-year coach said. “I think we played better than the situation indicates, but that’s hockey. We have to persevere here and stick with it and find a solution.”
The franchise that began its existence as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974 realizes navigating a way out of this wilderness will be tough.
New Jersey must attempt to become the fourth team in NHL history to escape an 0-3 playoff series deficit. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have done it in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Devils’ seemingly charmed opponents are on a 15-2 playoff run with 17 goal-scorers in front of stalwart Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who has outplayed Brodeur — but not by much. New Jersey has scored just two goals on 72 shots during nearly 202 minutes of play in three Stanley Cup finals games.
“Everything they touch turns to gold,” Brodeur said.
The Devils were shut out in Game 3 despite getting six power plays, but they also were shut out twice in the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals before rallying to advance. New Jersey has ample scoring power in its lineup, and the Devils’ top forwards remain convinced they can start a tide of offense with a few breakthrough goals.
“If you look too far ahead, it’s a pretty high mountain to climb,” said Patrik Elias, the franchise scoring leader and a two-time champion. “But we feel like we were in it for most of these games. It’s just a matter of us scoring, and hopefully we’ll get some luck, get poised, and have more opportunities.”
With the perspective of experience, Brodeur can’t get overly negative about the Devils’ plight in Los Angeles. He’s too proud of what the sixth-seeded Devils accomplished just to get back here: knocking off Florida, Philadelphia and the Rangers in a stirring playoff run for a team that missed the postseason last spring for the first time since 1996.
“That was probably the worst season I had last year,” Brodeur said. “To hope that we would accomplish what we did this year would have been a little far-fetched. I didn’t expect that for sure at the start of the season. It’s not fun to be where we are now, but I’m enjoying the experience of being back here.”
Brodeur tried to avoid getting reflective about the past or his future during a busy media session. The 21-year veteran said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll be back with the Devils, but every sign indicates Wednesday is unlikely to be the last time in a Devils uniform for the winningest goalie in NHL history.
“I feel real good body-wise,” Brodeur said. “It’s maybe the best since ’95. I don’t have any time to have wear and tear. ... I think we just need something to happen, regardless of what it is: a big hit, a big goal, a weak goal. They’ve been doing it on their side, finding a way to win. We have to do the same thing.”