This Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Martin Brodeur will sit in the crowd at the NHL Awards, awaiting the decision as to whether or not he’ll win his fifth Vezina trophy.
I hope he’ll be working on his acceptance speech, because I believe Brodeur is the most deserving candidate for this year’s Vezina trophy.
The other two candidates, Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix Coyotes) and Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) are both deserving candidates. Bryzagalov helped to turn around the Coyotes this season, posting career highs in every major statistical category. He shattered the franchise record for goalie wins, and his eight shutouts ranked second in the league. Miller was even better, helping lead Buffalo to their second division title in four years. The silver medalist won 41 games this season and collected a career-high five shutouts. No one will forget his play with Team USA, but that shouldn’t factor into the decision.
While both Miller and Bryzgalov deserve praise, none of them should walk away with the Vezina. Brodeur’s play this season makes him the most deserving candidate for that honor. Marty led all NHL goalies in games played (77), victories (45) and shutouts (9). He backstopped the Devils to another Jennings Trophy, the fifth of his career. Brodeur continued to destroy the record books, surpassing Terry Sawchuk for most career shutouts and topping Patrik Roy’s record for career games by a goaltender. He tied Roy for the record with his 13th 30-win season, and Brodeur completed his eighth season of 40 wins.
All of these numbers are impressive. But what’s more impressive is Brodeur’s advanced plus/minus rating. With his team on the penalty kill, Brodeur’s on-ice plus/minus rating stood at 5.69, ahead of both Bryzgalov (4.99) and Miller (3.79). At some of the most important times on the ice, with his team down a man, Brodeur stood taller than the other two candidates. In other categories, Brodeur similarly matched to both Bryzgalov and Miller, usually finishing second in the group.
But the most amazing thing about Brodeur? The fact that, as a 38-year-old goalie, he’s playing some of the best hockey in his career. He continues to look sharp, and I’d reason that Brodeur may have only lost a quarter of his step during his career. He continually makes spectacular plays, even with his increase in age. Brodeur has seen players like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski leave, yet he’s produced spectacular statistics time and time again.
This season, Brodeur returned to the elite goaltending level we’re all used to seeing. His play was stellar, and the goalie deserves to be rewarded with his fifth Vezina trophy. Bryzgalov and Miller played well this season, but I believe Brodeur outplayed them and deserves honors as the top goalie.
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