New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. (AP File/Bill Kostroun)
The 34-year-old netminder for the New Jersey Devils appears en route to reclaiming the Vezina Trophy he lost to Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff last year with a 2006-07 season that is shaping up to be one of his very best.
He's on pace to eclipse career highs for a season in wins and shutouts and his current .929 save percentage would be the best he's ever posted in 13 NHL seasons. His current 1.99 goals-against average would be the lowest since 1997-98.
"I don't think anything that Marty does should be a surprise to anyone," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday. "Because he's been doing it consistently year in and year out. It goes back to the foundation of how much he loves this game, how hard he works at it, and his God-given natural talent.
"And he's such a quality individual."
Brodeur leads all NHL goalies with 28 wins and eight shutouts and sits second in GAA and save percentage.
Forget the Vezina, what about the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP?
"For me just to be considered as a most valuable player in the NHL is great but the bigger goal for me is to win the Stanley Cup," said Brodeur. "These awards are great and make you feel good but at the end of the day if I'm miserable when April 6 comes because I'm not in the playoffs or when May comes and I'm out of the playoffs, that's not fun."
His shutout Tuesday night against the New York Rangers was the 88th of his career, moving him six behind George Hainsworth for second overall in NHL history and 15 behind Terry Sawchuk's record of 103.
"It means I'm going to win games if I get close to those guys and at the end of the day it's all about winning," said Brodeur. "Terry Sawchuck's record is a nice one. At one point I believed it was going to get harder as far as getting shutouts with the new NHL and all that but my team proved me wrong.
"We've been able to do it."
Brodeur is already three shutouts ahead of last season's total of five, the Devils having figured out how to play defensive hockey in the new NHL. But Brodeur still deserves a large share of the credit given that the Devils' blue-line corps isn't nearly as deep as it once was.
"I don't care how good you are, if you don't have the commitment from the players that play in front of you, it's going to be hard to achieve anything," Brodeur said in acknowledging his teammates. "So therefore it's a pleasant surprise as far as getting that many shutouts so far this season and still a lot of games to go.
"Hopefully we'll continue in that direction the next few years and hopefully get close to Terry Sawchuk's record. It's a pretty amazing one."
There's another record he continues to inch closer to - Patrick Roy's 551 career regular-season wins. Brodeur now sits 77 behind in second place at 474. He should be able to get there during the 2008-09 season.
Roy said Wednesday he's rooting for Brodeur to break it.
"Absolutely," Roy told The Canadian Press in Quebec City before the Top Prospect Game. "Martin to me is special in a way that he plays so many games a year, year after year, I wonder how he can deal with that. He really takes care of himself.
"It's amazing he's able to do it. I'm very impressed with that. He's like an ironman out there. He's able to perform at that level night after night."
Brodeur, who has played 44 of his team's 46 games this season, says it's too early to look at Roy's record.
"If it's going to be there eventually, great, but I really believe I don't want to put too much pressure or emphasis on trying to get to it," said Brodeur. "I know if we have success in New Jersey I'll be there, but I don't want to put a timeframe on it.
"I don't want to make it a bigger deal than it is now because I know it's going to be harder when I get close to it."
Roy says he relished chasing and passing Sawchuk's 447 wins, which was then the record, and now sees Brodeur doing the same with his mark.
"If he does it, I'll be happy for him," said Roy. "Records are there to be beaten and if I challenged him to be better, I'll take it that way."
Brodeur is more focused these days on his streaking club, which is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games and very much the Eastern Conference contender some had predicted before the season.
"It's been a great ride," said Brodeur. "Where we lacked last year and early this season was being consistent. And I think now we've found the middle ground of how we like to play.
"We're not going to win every game but we're going to be in every game and we're not going to shooting ourselves in the foot."
with files from CP sportswriter Bill Beacon in Quebec City