Anyone who thought Martin Brodeur’s stick-throwing hissy fit on Tuesday night would put an extra shake in his glove was sadly mistaken. Anyone who thought being cut by the skate of a flying Chad LaRose would slow him up was very wrong. And anyone who thinks the ‘Canes have a shot in this playoff series, regardless of how well they play, if Brodeur is on his game is living in a little place I like to call Delusion Land.
The best goalie in the world saved the diva antics tonight and posted 44 saves, stuffing the ‘Canes at every turn. He stopped everything he saw – and didn’t see – en route to a 1-0 shutout in Game 5.
Strangely, the only make-up goaltender interference call on the night was not a make-up call at all; it was against the Devils. David Clarkson was given a seat after infringing on Cam Ward’s personal bubble. Shortly after LaRose lost his edge and slid under Brodeur’s legs, accidentally slicing the back of the goalie’s leg through his sock, Brodeur tripped up Matt Cullen behind the net and received a whistle as well.
This was Brodeur’s 23rd playoff shutout of his career, which tied him for some new, apparently spectacular record. (Who can even keep track anymore?)
Chad LaRose, Ryan Bayda, Jussi Jokinen, Ray Whitney and especially Eric Staal came out flying tonight, but none could find the goal line. The ‘Canes’ closest chance came after Brodeur bobbled a Rod Brind’Amour shot, but a review showed that the puck somehow managed to stay in the clear.
Patrick Eaves rewarded Triangle Offense for its compliments after the last game by taking two stupid penalties, one of which led to the game-winning goal. Super.
Ward’s play was not at all disappointing; he let in only one goal on 42 shots, for crying out loud, and that one was on the power play. On Clarkson’s second of the postseason, Ward was screened and the shot was deflected TWICE. Ward made a few sparkling saves to keep the deficit at one goal, including a glove save on Zach Parise while he was in the splits and a breakaway chance with a few minutes left. There was nothing Ward could have done to save this game aside from developing superpowers or challenging Brodeur to a Western-style duel. Clearly, both options come with some obvious drawbacks.
Everyone held their breaths and waited for some more last-minute heroics, but it wasn’t in the cards tonight. The ‘Canes pulled Ward for a little bit and maintained possession well, but nothing materialized and the Devils squeaked by with their one-goal effort.
Everyone from the locker room to the streets of Raleigh seems pleased with this game, but there’s something unnerving about being pleased with an effort in which you can’t solve Brodeur at least once or catch a lucky bounce. There aren’t bonus points in the playoffs for losses well played. I’m glad everyone’s pleased, but doesn’t this make you wonder if the ‘Canes aren’t quite good enough?
Anyway, the ‘Canes can’t seem to drop this every-other-game tango and are now on the brink. Unless they win the next two games – one at home, one at New Jersey – their postseason hopes will come to an abrupt end. Not that, in all fairness, this series hasn’t been more than fans could have hoped for.