Brodeur still going strong in finals
LOS ANGELES (AP) Martin Brodeur's strong performance in the Stanley Cup finals shouldn't be much of a surprise to anybody who has watched the NHL since 1995 or so.
The three-time champion goalie has allowed 10 goals in five games heading into Game 6, including just one regulation goal apiece in four of those five games. The 40-year-old Brodeur has kept the Devils competitive with the Kings and Jonathan Quick, whose star-making playoff performance is the biggest reason Los Angeles reached the finals.
Brodeur's teammates hope nobody is surprised by the play of the NHL's career victories leader. The Kings certainly aren't.
''He's been unbelievable,'' longtime teammate Patrik Elias said. ''You look back at last season, a lot of people were talking about him retiring, that it's the right time, et cetera. But when you're having fun, playing good hockey, this is what it can do for you.
''I've watched him many years,'' Elias added. ''The way he approaches the game now, this playoffs, this season, it's as good as any years. You can see that focus that he has. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's giving us a chance to win. He has those exceptional saves in the game when you kind of sit back and say, 'Wow, he's on his game.'''
Brodeur allowed one goal in each of the Devils' two elimination-game victories over the previous five days. His victory in Game 5 was the 17th of his finals career, pulling him even with the Islanders' Billy Smith in sixth place.
Most of the names above Brodeur are from eras when a Stanley Cup finals trip was significantly shorter: Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Turk Broda, Terry Sawchuk and Brodeur contemporary Patrick Roy, who is in fifth with 18 wins.
''I shouldn't say that any of us are really surprised,'' New Jersey captain Zach Parise said. ''He's played really well for us all year. I think when you look at it, when you look at his age, it makes it that much more impressive. ... The way he's doing it, it's been awesome. He's done what a team asks. You ask your goalie to give the team a chance to win. I think he really won (Game 5) for us, I really do. He made big saves when we weren't playing well, bailed us out a lot. He's played great for us all playoffs.''
The Devils have managed just six goals in five games on Quick, including two pucks that ricocheted off Los Angeles defenseman Slava Voynov and left Quick with no chance. While lucky bounces account for a third of New Jersey's goals, the Kings are having their roughest scoring stretch of the postseason against Brodeur and the Devils' impressive defensive scheme.
The Kings are well aware of Brodeur's predilection for aggressive puck-handling outside his crease and the penalties that can result, particularly in a high-pressure postseason game.
''He seems to be seeing a lot of pucks,'' Kings center Mike Richards said. ''That's our fault as forwards not getting to the net as much, shooting from a distance. There's things you can do better. We have to make his life more difficult without taking penalties. There's a fine line there we have to walk with not getting in his way, not putting ourselves in positions where Marty can draw that penalty with what he does.''
Brodeur hasn't announced whether he will return next year, but it seems increasingly inevitable, even if the Devils complete their comeback to win the Stanley Cup. Even if Brodeur could leave the game on top, he appears to be having too much fun to walk away - and he is certainly good enough to keep going, as these finals have proved to any doubters of a 40-something goalie with good years ahead.
''It's a good time for me, too,'' Elias said with a smile. ''He's (just) four years older than me.''
SECOND SIX SELECTION: The Kings are trying to leave behind both the Devils and the St. Louis Blues during the Stanley Cup finals.
If the Kings can win the series, St. Louis will be the only existing team from the NHL's first expansion in 1967 that has yet to win a championship. That Second Six expansion class doubled the six-team league's size and forever changed the game from an insular, Northeast-based sport to a continent-wide endeavor.
Philadelphia won the Second Six's first Cup in 1974, and Pittsburgh won it in 1991. The Minnesota North Stars triumphed in 1999 after moving to Dallas.
One of the Second Six teams is long gone: After two name changes, the Bay Area's California Golden Seals moved to Cleveland in 1976 and disappeared when they merged with the North Stars two years later. The NHL wanted two teams in California to fend off the potential creation of a rival regional league while also hoping to get a bigger television contract, but hockey in the Bay Area didn't take hold until the San Jose Sharks arrived.
Los Angeles also could be the fourth straight team to end a lengthy drought by winning the Cup. The Boston Bruins, last year's champion, hadn't won since 1972, 2010 champion Chicago hadn't won since 1961 - the NHL's longest drought at the time - and 2009 Cup winners Pittsburgh had only waited since 1992.
Toronto, which won its last Cup title in 1967 - right before expansion - has the NHL's longest championship drought.
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