Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Around the League: Tip of the Helmet, Rangers, and More. . .

Before going on to talk about the Rangers, in brief, I will take a little while to share my thoughts on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur's noteworthy accomplishment last night.

Bill Clement was on XM204 with Rossi and Phil this afternoon and he actually gave me the perfect starting point for whatever it was I thought I was going to write.

He said he feels that Marty, in direct difference to any other goalie that has made remarkable contributions to the game or holds records of significance, is a person that everyone, regardless of what team they root for, genuinely likes.

He said some members of Sawchuks own team hated him. He said Patrick Roy was a hated man in Detroit. But, he said, he couldn't imagine anyone in any arena last night not being happy for Marty Brodeur because he was such a great guy.

Phil agreed.

Rossi did not.

Not that Marty's not a good guy, mind you. I'm sure he is. But Rossi said he didn't think the people at Madison Square Garden liked Marty.

I, as a Rangers fan, definitely agree.

There is a great tragedy that comes with being a hockey fan of a particular team. You will never, no matter how truly great they are, give one of the games great players all the adoration and respect they deserve if they happen to suit up for your least favorite team.

As a Rangers fan, there are a few rivals to contend with. The Flyers of the 70s, the Islanders of the 80s, the Devils of the 90s. And, to be honest, the team I hate losing to now more than ever is the Penguins, so it can be argued they are the rival of the late 00s. The Rangers certainly do not lack for rivals.

And there are few other fans in this league, unless they are from Montreal and adored Brodeur for his hometown roots, unless they just happened to be a goalie worshiper and he was "their" guy, or unless they are fans of the Devils, that would have seen more of Marty Brodeur than Rangers fans.

Trust me.

He has been there at our best moments (1994, 1997, 2008) and our worst moments (1997 through 2004; and again in 2006). Through it all, that has been THE guy in goal. Six times a year or eight times a year. Four intense playoff rounds. He was the guy, is the guy, and will continue to be the guy.

I frankly cannot picture the Devils without Martin Brodeur. As much as Devils fans will be sad when he retires, Rangers fans will be left with a sense of utter disillusionment; a sense of - well what now.

Having one of the best goaltenders in the history of the game in your face so often makes him seem more human than he should, I guess. I mean, the guy is hands down fantastic and dominated your team into embarassment for an eight year stretch and yet, he's really just Marty.

When he's not Maaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrtttttttttttyyyyyyyyyyy that is. ;)

His greatness, because of the rivalry, is lost on many of us Rangers fans. We can't see the greatness because we are caught up in everything else. The hatred of the rivalry, the joshing with the opposing fans. The utter thrill when he DOESN'T perform up to his great standards. That's when we, as Rangers fans, get a break.

I still wouldn't go so far as to say he's hated though. He's not hated by me, I'll make that clear. I will not hate a player because he's good. And he is certainly that and more. But I never liked him. And it was more because he appeared - despite what I hear and what other people say of him - to have an attitude. And I know for a fact that the year the Devils finally beat the Rangers in a playoff round - that was like another Stanley Cup for him, more important than all that followed. He also, and maybe it's just against New York, always seemed to not give credit when one of our guys beat him cleanly. A nice move in the shootout and Marty was saying the shooter didn't mean to do that, and he got lucky. So for me to say I liked him, would be a lie. I preach honesty here at Natural Hat Trick. So I won't lie.

I'll be honest. I do not think Rangers fans were doing backflips last night. I don't think think they like him.

But as the record creeped up, and I made a few mentions of kudos here to Marty at NHTP, I admitted what needed to be said. He has been, during most of the time I've watched him, the greatest goalie of his generation, next to Patrick Roy.

Now, after last night, he is - numerically - the winningest goalie in the history of the league. If he was always one of the best, last night might have pushed him over the edge. That, though, will remain a debate for as long as hockey is played.

He deserves nothing less than a giant tip of the helmet for what he did last night. And a sincere round of applause for what he has done and what that means for our great game.

Rangers fan or not, I am a hockey fan, and something like that commands respect. And for that, he has mine.

Bill and the guys on Home Ice went onto list names of goalies currently playing and where they were in relation to Brodeur's numbers, and who, if any could catch him, and how much they'd have to win to catch him.

I think that's pointless. I don't think anyone we have heard of now will ever beat Brodeur's record. It would take not only a fantastic goalie, but circumstances beyond what we can imagine now.

Brodeur played his whole career for one team. Started young. Was good young. Played for a team that was a defensive powerhouse for a decade. And a league powerhouse for just as long. And he, luckily, saw his first major injury of his career - this year. Not many will be that lucky. Many greater goalies, perhaps, will play for worse teams, get an untimely injury, or come into the league at the wrong time.

I really respect how Marty is saying he is going to pad his totals more, so that when someone does catch him, it will be more of a challenge.

Because he is saying - in essense - that someone will catch him. Someday.

And yes, someday, perhaps, someone will. Someone we have yet to hear of. Someone who probably hasn't been born yet. Perhaps someday someone will pass him.


Records, they said, are made to be broken.

But on this day and for the long, long foreseeable future, the record holder is Martin Brodeur.

I tip my helmet to you Marty for the great things he has done for our game. Congratulations.

Rangers/The Short Stuff:

Circumstances prevented me from watching the game last night, and despite the night, not ones involving beer. I did, however, listen on radio until I was able to get home and watch the shootout on TV. It sounded like one of the best games of the season, as people have expressed. I LOVE back and forth hockey. And while the get a goal, give one up, routine can get old, I think that's a refreshing change of pace from get four goal lead, blow four goal lead, no?

Important game and very imporant work from some key people. Antropov was interviewed after the game. Apparently coaches told him to shoot more. He has looked like has a very, very nice shot. So I concur. Shoot big man, shoot.

And Hank, a man who I saw literally crumbling at the seems earlier this year during the dark days, has looked as refreshed and as changed a man as I have seen yet in his recent interviews. I've watched 95% of his interviews since he came into the league. I had never seen him as uncomfortable as he was during those dark days. It's a pleasure to now see his eyes crinkle in happiness. Not tense in frustration. Or wary in relief. But happy and confident that he is playing well, he can play better, but that the team around him is playing again so that the margin doesn't have to be so ackingly thin.

Good stuff. Big weekend ahead. I hope the new, fun attitude continues.


I plan to finish watching some of the game I missed in my exhaustion last night, but I will share two facts.

One, Darren Pang was on a Prucha praising streak again last night. :) I'll type up what he said when I have more time later in the week or this weekend. Worth hearing for Prucha fans. And not shocking. Somewhat shocking, the little big man saw more time on the penalty kill than the powerplay. This provides me with such a sense of joy, I cannot tell you. A young player - yes still young - getting opportunities he was not given and never would have been given. Maybe he'll be the team's best penalty killer. In New York, we never would have known.

Two, Dmitri Kalinin made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone and got in position to score his first as a Coyote. Come on now, who would have thought Kalinin would be the first of the three departed Rangers to score in burgandy and white? Maybe it was the desert air.

Oh one more, while I'm at it. Saturday at Arena is 80s night. 80s music and fans invited to dress the part.

Tell me that would ever happen in New York.

Only in the desert. . .

**I woke up this morning and looked at the New York Post. Martin Brodeur was on the back cover. This surprised me, not because he did not deserve it - he totally deserves it - but because I don't remember a hockey moment on the backpages since Messier's jersey retirement. I may be wrong, but it's been a long while. And certainly a longer time for something a hockey player did - in game. Not since perhaps Mark passed Gordie Howe in points in November of 2003. As deserving as Marty is to get the back cover - and he is - it just reminded me what a shame it is that it happens so infreqently in our city.**

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