I love Martin Brodeur. I know, if you read through the commentary on the NHL playoffs I’ve made more negative than positive comments about the New Jersey goaltender, but that’s not out of spite, just that the numbers say he’s far from the goalie he once was. But even as a Boston fan he’s a goalie I root for and I absolutely love a night like Monday when, in a must-win spot, he wakes up the echoes of his younger days, turns back 28 of 29 shots and helps his team beat the New York Rangers 4-1 and tie up the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece.
As good as Brodeur was, let’s also note that the offensive stars on both sides came ready to play last night. Marian Gaborik wasn’t able to light the lamp for New York, but if he gets five shots a game for the rest of this series, New York’s going to feel good about their chances. And New Jersey got similar offensive activity from Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. None was more productive than the latter, who got an early assist to help the Devils take the lead and then scored two goals as his team pulled away.
It was less than stellar night for Henrik Lundqvist, the Ranger goalie, who saw 30 shots and allowed three goals—the fourth Jersey goal was an empty-netter with less than two minutes to play. I suppose Lundqvist is entitled, having delivered such a clutch effort in Game 3. But he’s the big edge New York is supposed to have in this series. Even the most ardent Ranger backer would have had to concede that New Jersey at least matched up in the 5-on-5 game and in fact, the Devils’ have been the superior team up and down the ice. Lundqvist needs to wipe away that advantage as this series returns to Madison Square Garden for Game 5.
Before we get to Game 5 in the East, we’ve got one in the West tonight, where Los Angeles takes its second shot at wrapping the series up when they go to Phoenix. This is the game I need to see the Coyotes win before I think this may be a series again. And really, I not only need to see them win, I’d like to see them do it some other way besides relying exclusively on goalie Mike Smith. He’s great, no question about it, but he’s not going to beat Los Angeles counterpart Jonathan Quick four straight times if the Kings are getting 15-20 shots a night more than the Coyotes. And that pattern held, even in Phoenix’s Game 4 win.