NHL Playoffs: Brodeur’s Collapse Puts New Jersey On The Brink

You can praise the Los Angeles Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick for his role in the team’s 4-0 shutout win over New Jersey in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, putting the Kings up 3-0 in games and one win from their first Cup ever. You’d be right to do so. You can praise the Los Angeles team defense and you’d be right to do so. But as much as New Jersey Devil goaltender Martin Brodeur is an icon, and as much as TheSportsNotebook in particular respects him, last night was about the Devil goalie.

New Jersey played its second straight outstanding defensive game—they’ve been good in all three games, but the last two have risen to the level of complete shutdown. They allowed only 21 shots on goal. Of Los Angeles’ three best players, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner, they combined for just one of those shots. The fact that this resulted in four goals has to fall on the shoulders of the veteran between the pipes who has three rings and is a lock Hall of Famer, but just appears to be fighting off the effects of time.

The first period of Game 3 went by scoreless before Los Angeles broke the ice (no pun intended). Kopitar, one the one shot from the team’s offensive core, then added a second goal on an assist from Brown. Let’s now also give credit to the Kings’ team defense, which held New Jersey to only 22 shots. And while Zach Parise was able to get four off, Ilya Kovalchuk was again made irrelevant. And with Jonathan Quick young, hungry and locked-in, that two-goal lead might as well have  been 6-0. Just in case there was any doubt thought,  Los Angeles added a pair of power play goals early in the third period to put it away. New Jersey’s inability to kill either of the two power plays—the only times all night Los Angeles played with the man advantage speak further volumes to how much Brodeur struggled.

Los Angeles will look to put it away in Game 4 on Wednesday night from the Staples center. Although as ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon noted yesterday, with this team being unbeaten in the road, maybe their real ace in the hole is that they still have two trips to New Jersey in their back pocket, regardless of what happens Wednesday.

Is it now a foregone conclusion this series is over? At 3-0, I’d certainly have to say yes. I do follow and root for Boston sports so I know what the Red Sox did in 2004 and what happened to the Bruins in 2010. But those are history-making moments for a reason—they rarely happen. Maybe a better question would be if the Devils’ can just get two wins and make the Finals interesting again. Here I’d be more optimistic. They’re playing outstanding team defense. They just need Kovalchuk to get involved and then the old vet, Mr. Brodeur needs to put the team on his back at least once.