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Thursday, October 25, 2007
Are You For Real: Has Brodeur lost it?

By Victoria Matiash and John Pereira
Special to ESPN.com

Many of you have seen Hector and Victor's "Are You For Real" football column. Now it's time for the hockey version. Fellow analyst John Pereira and I, Victoria Matiash, will scrutinize, in tandem, the legitimacy of those exceeding or performing below expectations.

For instance, is that youngster at the top of the scoring table the "Real McCoy" or a sizzling flash in the pan? Is Mr. "Good-for-80-points-every-year-but-not-producing-squat-right-now" truly washed up or just in a slump? Who should you keep, trade or jettison? We will debate, we will discuss, we might even ridicule one another at times, but we'll each come to a final verdict. (Hopefully Johnny and I are speaking to each other in April.)

Without further delay, let's have a look at our first three candidates:

Corey Perry, RW, Mighty Ducks

With a sophomore season of sporadic highs and lows behind him, Corey Perry is contributing steadily to the Stanley Cup champions' score sheet. But his eight points in 11 games are only part of the story. This 22-year-old is feisty; he already has racked up a team-leading 21 minutes in the penalty box a mere three weeks into the season. Can this well-balanced fantasy performance continue, or will last season's Perry re-emerge and finish with another sub-50-point output by year end?

John: It depends on which stats we want to know are for real. The penalty minutes are not. Why, you ask? In his first two seasons, Perry amassed 50 and 55 penalty minutes, respectively, and I doubt he has made a severe change to his playing style over the summer. At the pace he's on, he would match last year's penalty output in just 20 games. There's no way that stat is not for real.

On the other hand, the scoring, my friends, will indeed continue. This is the same guy who scored 130 points in 2004-05 with the London Knights of the OHL in just 60 games. Granted, that was just Junior A hockey in Canada, and the Knights were freakishly stocked with talented players. But all the same, that's more than a two-point-per-game pace. I don't think it's a far stretch to assume he'll reach the 70-point plateau this year. He's only 22 years old and has lots of room to grow.

Victoria: But he's not there yet, John. His performance was too sporadic last year for me to believe he's mature enough to be an elite player in his own right. Skating with the likes of Andy McDonald, Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz certainly bolsters Perry's scoring prowess, but what happens when Todd Bertuzzi returns from injury? Or, as far-fetched as it might seem now, Teemu Selanne? Should the "Finnish Flash" decide he isn't quite done with the professional game, Perry will see a reduction in time on the ice, both at full-strength and on the power play. It's a big "if," but it's still a possibility. Don't get me wrong. Regardless of who he's playing with, Perry will register 50 points by April. But this hot start to the season won't last. To capitalize on his value, I would trade him now before he cools off.

Mike Comrie, C, Islanders

Maybe it's the New York air or the time spent snuggling with Hilary Duff, but Mike Comrie is playing the best hockey of his career. In this, his seventh NHL season, Comrie is on pace to obliterate all personal scoring accomplishments. He's a fantasy owner's dream: Five goals, five assists, five power-play points and 14 penalty minutes in eight games. What more could you ask for? But the question remains, is this newly minted Islander the genuine article or just another pretty-boy athlete to read about in the latest entertainment rag?

John: Let me just say that snuggling with Hilary Duff would indeed be good for any man's ego, and I too would be putting in a little more effort at work with millions in my pocket and the pretty blonde on my arm. But as Joel Madden has shown before, Duff and only a little talent can take you only so far. Mike Comrie, my friends, is not for real.

Victoria: I earnestly disagree. Comrie, at least this year, is the genuine article. To be blunt, with all the off-season losses, the Islanders aren't a very good offensive hockey team. Alexei Yashin, love him or loathe him, is back in Russia. Ryan Smyth is in Colorado and Jason Blake is with the Maple Leafs. Even Viktor Kozlov will be missed. The acquisitions of Comrie, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko are principal to any success this team has. And they're playing exceptionally well together, even after such a short period. Points are going to come from somewhere on this roster, and the majority will come from this new top line.

Furthermore, Comrie is skating on a one year contract. He's performing for next year's pay check and players in those situations usually over-achieve

John: After roaring out of the opening gate this year, Comrie has slowed of late. The diminutive center has never topped the 60-point barrier in the NHL and certainly won't keep up this break-neck pace of more than a point per game. He will continue to get plenty of points based solely on the fact that he plays on the Islanders' first line, but now is the time to sell high. It seems to be my favorite stat lately, but he can't keep his shooting percentage at an amazing 31 percent.

Victoria: That stat means nothing to me. His percentage will drop, but his total shots will rise. It'll all work out in the end. Comrie is in for a big season.

Martin Brodeur, G, Devils

What the heck is badgering Marty Brodeur? The three-time Vezina Trophy winner has a dreary 2-4 record, 3.51 goals-against average and .865 save percentage. Backup Kevin Weekes is performing significantly better, which concerns us, considering few people used to even know who played behind Brodeur in the past. Is this poor play the fault of New Jersey's defense? Could this slump be just a small, insignificant glitch in another successful season? Or is it possible, thinking the unthinkable, that Brodeur's dominance in net has finally reached its conclusion? Oh, the horror.

John: The horror is right. Have you watched a New Jersey Devils game this season? That defense just does not look the same as it did in years past. I'm scared for him.

Victoria: Well, he could really use Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer right about now, and the loss of Brian Rafalski doesn't help matters. He quietly led the team in ice time last year.

John: Here's the really concerning part: Brodeur has faced only 155 shots this year. Twenty goalies have seen more shots; some of them aren't even full-time starters. One could argue that this defense is playing well in front of Marty this season and that he's just not getting the job done anymore. Brodeur is getting older. He's now 35, and generally goalies begin to see a decline in their skill set earlier than position players do. But there's no way he's this bad, considering how well he played last year. Brodeur certainly won't be the best fantasy goaltender from here on out, and he might not even be in top three. But don't cut bait just yet. This is Martin Brodeur we're talking about!

Victoria: I think the nine-game road stint to start the season has hurt the entire team more than it would like to admit. Not the trip itself, but rather all the discussion about it. Before passing any judgment on Brodeur's alleged demise, let's see how the squad responds once it settles into its new arena.

And keep in mind, Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo haven't been impenetrable either. I refuse to believe they've all just lost it. Even elite players hit rough patches; Brodeur just happened to strike a wretched one at the onset of the season. If this was January, and he already had 30 wins under his belt, we wouldn't even be having this chat. Let's just take a deep breath and relax.

Victoria Matiash and John Pereira are fantasy hockey analysts for ESPN.com.