Devils coach Pete DeBoer described it as the “right thing to do” for the legendary goaltender and future Hall of Famer.
Is this surprising?
No, not really, especially considering all Brodeur has done for the franchise throughout an illustrious 20-year career, but with the two teams so close in the standings and a critical two points at stake, the choice is still one up for debate.
DeBoer decided to go with Brodeur despite the fact his heir apparent has posted significantly better numbers this season. Though Cory Schneider has a middling 9-9-7 record, he boasts an impressive 1.84 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He has also held opponents to two goals or fewer in each of his past eight starts. By comparison, Brodeur is 13-10-4, with a 2.36 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
“The tough part is that Cory is on a roll right now, and he’s been almost unbeatable for the last five or six games,” DeBoer said. “So that threw a little bit of a wrench in the thinking, but at the end of the day, this is the right thing to do. And both guys have handled it professionally and Cory understands that.”
The 41-year-old Brodeur has not played since Jan. 18 with the Devils currently riding the hot hand.
“I’m happy to play a game. It’s been a while. It’s been over a week,” Brodeur said after the Devils practice Saturday. “Kind of a little different setting to do it, but it’s exciting.”
Schneider is already well-versed in the delicate dance of two dueling goaltenders from his days in Vancouver, where he split time in net with Roberto Luongo. As such, he was diplomatic when discussing DeBoer’s choice.
“He just pulled me aside and said this has been 20 years in the making for Marty and that it’s a big moment for the organization and would be sort of symbolic of what he’s meant to this team,” Schneider said. “He’s played well all season long.”
Brodeur, who grew up playing hockey on outdoor rinks as a school-aged boy in Montreal, said he was looking forward to the experience. He didn’t expect to get the chance while playing for the Devils, and he will relish the opportunity.
“I’ve watched a lot of them through the years and I never guessed that the Devils would be in one. And here we’re going to play tomorrow,” Brodeur said. “So I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be good memories, hopefully.”
NYC or L.A.? Fellow veteran Jaromir Jagr said if he had the choice of playing an outdoor game in L.A. or New York, he’d choose the sunny California locale, if only to prevent the type of lower-body injury he sustained during the last NHL outdoor game he experienced, against the Rangers in 2012, while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
“If I had a choice to play here or in L.A., I would probably choose L.A. -- nothing against the Yankees or New York. I think [that way] because I had a bad experience two years ago,” Jagr explained. “I got injured in the first period [of the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic] and it was the same weather -- it was pretty cold. And I think it’s a lot tougher for the muscles to get warmed up. And I feel like it would be a lot better for me, for my body, to play in different conditions.”