Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas
Plenty more happened last night than the New York Rangers beating the New Jersey Devils, 5-3, giving the Rangers a five-game series victory. It could very well be the end of the glorious run of the Devils as the DEVILS and of Martin Brodeur as MARTIN BRODEUR.
With three Stanley Cups and an old-time goalie’s iron man approach to hockey (even when other teams were playing two goalies with some regularity, Brodeur seemed to play every game), Martin Brodeur is a sure-fire Hall of Famer once he hangs up his skates. But he certainly gave up a number of soft goals in the Ranger series (both Barry Melrose on ESPN and Joe Micheletti of MSG Network kept saying “Marty wishes he could have that one back”). Accused for years of being a “system” goalie as the Devils played the dreaded trap to perfection, it’s become clear over the last seven or eight years that Brodeur is much more than that – in fact, an all-time great goaltender.
The problem for him (and the Devils), frankly, is the quality of the defense put in front of him. Gone to retirement are the Hall of Famer Scott Stevens and the excellent Ken Daneyko. Gone to other teams are the great Scott Niedermayer and the vastly underrated Brian Rafalski. These guys simply can’t be replaced and haven’t been replaced, even with money-saving genius Lou Lamoriello at the helm.
On the other side, the New York Rangers are coming like a freight train. While it’s true that the additions of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury were crucial, the key to it all, as it usually is in hockey, is the ascension of King Henrik Lundqvist. Non-hockey fans simply don’t understand the importance of the quality of your top goalie. Frankly, it’s like starting your number one pitcher every game.
So Lundqvist, with very brief time-period exceptions, has been a top NHL goaltender since he came into the league. He was an NHL “rookie” like Ichiro was a baseball rookie – he was a star in the Swedish Elite League before he came to the Rangers and has an Olympic Gold Medal.
While the Rangers charged the net, shot the puck (finally) and caused Brodeur all kinds of problems (separate and apart from the Sean Avery fiasco), it seemed like the Devils had to shoot the puck off a Ranger to score (the game-winning goal in their only victory plus goals two and three that got them back to 4-3 in Game 5). But Lundqvist put down the hammer and sent a message by stopping tricky John Madden on a penalty shot after all the momentum had shifted to the Devils. It’s not Mike Richter stopping Vancouver’s Pavel Bure in 1994, but it was the final nail in the Devil’s coffin as they seemed about to crawl out of it.
Some Ranger fans feared that the acquisition of Scott Gomez would be the second coming of the disappointing (as a Ranger) Bobby Holik, but that hasn’t happened. In fact, just the subtraction of Gomez from the Devils was a great blow to their winning system. In addition, even though Jaromir Jagr obviously missed the underrated Michael Nylander earlier in the season, Jagr has come around and is playing like a superstar again. Maybe, like many NBA players, he was just waiting for the playoffs.
But it all comes back to Lundqvist. Intelligent, clutch, fundamentally sound, he’s going to be around for a long time. And that means that the Rangers, arguably helped more than any other team by the “new” NHL salary restrictions, are also Cup contenders this year and in the future.
As for Brodeur, he, Lamoriello and the Devils will regroup as they always do and will still be a factor. But it says here that, from a winning-the-Stanley-Cup perspective, The King is Dead, Long Live The King!
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.