Does Marty Need A Break?

Throughout the day, I like to check Tom Gulliti’s Fire and Ice Blog. The Bergen Record reporter usually provides some great reporting, and one of those stories stuck out yesterday. You can check out the entire post here, but what it said was that Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire doesn’t plan to rest Martin Brodeur in any of the remaining six games. The 37 year old veteran, who has already played 71 games this season, will never admit to being tired or overworked. But Marty might need a break.

Martin Brodeur 2I think the reasoning behind Lemaire’s statement is clear. The Devils currently sit one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the conference. Winning the Atlantic Division means guaranteed home-ice advantage during the first round of the playoffs. It also might give the Devils an easier road to the conference finals, because the team could avoid Washington in a potential second round matchup.

Brodeur believes he’s fresher this season than in years past.

“I feel good,” he said to Gulliti. “It’s weird. I just don’t feel like I’ve played a lot of hockey right now compared to other years for whatever reason. The way the schedule has been, it hasn’t been that hard on me at all.”

Brodeur might feel fresh, but he’s said that time and time again. In the past few years, however, the Devils playoffs exits have been earlier and earlier. And one of those reasons may be the over-reliance on Brodeur during the regular season. I went back to the last time the Devils won the Stanley Cup, in 2002-2003. I wanted to see how Brodeur’s regular season workload might be affecting his playoff production. What I found could be reason for Lemaire to pause before marching Brodeur to the blue paint night after night.

Here’s a breakdown of the stats:

Year

Regular Season Games Played

Regular Season Wins

Regular Season G.A.A.

Regular Season Save %

Playoff Wins

Playoff G.A.A.

Playoff Save %

2003-2004

75

38

2.03

0.917%

1

2.62

0.902%

2005 – 2006

73

43

2.57

0.911%

5

2.25

0.923%

2006 – 2007

78

48

2.18

0.922%

5

2.44

0.916%

2007-2008

77

44

2.17

0.920%

1

3.19

0.891%

Almost every single year, Brodeur has performed worse in the playoffs than in the regular season. There was one year, 2005-2006, where he outperformed the regular season. But, his consistent heavy workload during the regular season seems to have a negative effect on his performance. While it may not be the be-all, end-all reason for Brodeur’s struggles, I’m sure it adds to the playoff decline.

So what’s the solution? Clearly, I think the Devils should look to rest Brodeur in these final six games. But they’re also sitting in fourth, and the second seed is a better position. Brodeur’s play is significantly better since the Olympic break, but the team around him is struggling. The last few games, Brodeur has needed to be the Devils best player on the ice. Putting the extra stress on him now can have adverse effects in the future. While it’s important to win the second seed, it’s more important to give Brodeur some rest to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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