Now that Martin Brodeur has tied Terry Sawchuk’s all-time career record for NHL shutouts, he can now set his sights on becoming the true all-time wins leader in NHL history.
But first things first. With his ticket to the Hockey Hall of Fame already punched, Brodeur padded his credentials even more Monday night when he stopped 22 shots in the New Jersey Devils’ 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. That gives him 103 career shutouts to equal what was once thought an unassailable benchmark in NHL goaltending.
But the mark might just be considered that when Brodeur breaks it with his next shutout. You never want to say never, but considering Chris Osgood is currently next in line among active goalies with 50 shutouts and Evgeni Nabokov and Roberto Luongo each have 49, it’s at least fair to say this record will last a long, long time. Sawchuk held the all-time mark for 45 years – he recorded his 95th shutout to pass George Hainsworth late in the 1963-64 season – and there’s a good bet Brodeur will have the mark for at least that long.
You get the feeling that nobody who is currently playing is going to come close. All of Osgood, Nabokov, Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff (33), Tomas Vokoun (34), Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas and Ilya Bryzgalov (15 each) are either near or in their 30s and they don’t even have half the number of shutouts Brodeur does.
Steve Mason recorded 10 shutouts en route to being named the NHL’s rookie of the year last season, but has zero so far in his second year and has a lot of making up to do. Marc-Andre Fleury has 15 career shutouts so far (also zero so far this season), but Fleury looks to be the kind of goalie who will let a couple in per game, then shut the door rather than pile up a bunch of shutouts. There’s also the matter that Brodeur is having a terrific season and looks to have a couple more ahead of him to continue to add wins and shutouts playing for a contending team.
But there’s another record Brodeur is now chasing and that is the real all-time wins record. Of his 575 wins so far during his career, 33 have come via the shootout, which is a vehicle for victories that Patrick Roy never had. But with 10 more wins in regulation time or overtime, Brodeur will pass Roy on that front as well.
It has always been about wins for Brodeur and once he passes Roy on equal ground, it certainly won’t end the debate about who is the greatest goalie of all-time, but it will certainly add to Brodeur’s credentials in that department. With 33 shootout wins and 55 overtime victories, Brodeur has 487 wins in regulation time, which means he passed Terry Sawchuk (447), who didn’t have the benefit of either overtime or shootouts, a long time ago.
With the true wins record and the shutout mark to his name – and perhaps a second Olympic gold medal in February – perhaps then people will give Brodeur his due. It’s true Brodeur has played in a system that has given up fewer shots per game than his contemporaries faced, but what critics almost always forget when it comes to Brodeur’s wins is that he has historically also played for a team that scored fewer goals and gave him far less offensive support.
“We’re not getting four or five goals and they’re always tight games, so every time you win, you’re always doing it under the gun,” Brodeur said in The Top 60 Since 1967 book published by THN. “I just can’t sit and relax.”
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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