That gave the recently-turned-40 goaltender sole possession of the NHL record for assists in a single postseason, breaking a seven-way tie with Glenn Healy, Grant Fuhr (twice), Ken Dryden, Gilles Gilbert, Kirk McLean and Tom Barrasso. But to really put Brodeur’s feat into perspective, consider he is only one assist shy of Pekka Rinne’s NHL-leading five assist total for the entire regular season (Brodeur and Craig Anderson were next with four helpers this season). Brodeur, who also has a playoff goal on his resume, is also now just one point and two assists from matching Fuhr for the career playoff highs in both categories.
Of course, more interesting than the totals are how Brodeur accumulates them. And that was made even more interesting by watching him play the puck Monday night while editing an article on playing the puck written by Mike McKenna, who played two seasons in the Devils’ organization and is now with the Ottawa Senators. Among the many great teaching points made by McKenna in the story, which will run in the June edition of InGoal Magazine, was that being good with the puck was not always about being able to shoot it the hardest. Watching Brodeur’s subtle little fakes, angle changes, and soft chips elude the Rangers really drove that point home.
Even the assist provided another great example from McKenna’s article about the keys to becoming a great puck handling goalie. It wasn’t a brilliant 60-foot pass, or even a crisp 15-foot tape-to-tape job. Brodeur simply recognized that coming out behind his net put him in a better position than the first Devils’ defenseman coming back and, knowing where his players would be on the other side because of advanced systems and set ups McKenna also addresses in the upcoming InGoal story, throws it safely off the glass, giving his players a good chance to retrieve it while also ensuring he’d be back in his net before either team could make a play on it:
As for how Brodeur got started handling the puck (like McKenna and Marty Turco, it involves Ron Hextall) and how he got so good at it, the Devils’ star shared his secrets with InGoal for an Ask a Pro segment last season:
“The way I wound up playing the puck was my dad used to be the photographer for the Montreal Canadiens and one morning when I woke up before going to school my dad came in and said ‘son, I can’t believe what I saw last night’ and I didn’t see the game so I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Brodeur told InGoal, “But Ron Hextall was playing and he said ‘this guy is like a third defenseman.’ That stuck in my mind and the next thing you know I watched a game and saw him play and I was amazed and I thought, ‘you know what, that’s what I want to do, I want to put that in my game.’ And so I started working at it.”
Brodeur said the key to getting better was, “simply shooting pucks.”
“Every time I have a chance, I’m going to make a pass to one of my players in practice,” he said. “Every time I have a chance, I’m going to clear the puck just to see how far I’m going to be able to shoot it. And when they’re doing drills on the other side and I don’t feel like taking shots, I go and I take maybe 50 pucks and I’m going to aim at the cross bar, or aim just over the net, and you know I’ll shoot on my backhand, on my forehand, or from behind the net I’ll get someone to skate board to board at the red line and I’ll try to hit his stick. The key is you’ve got to play, you’ve got to practice, and you have to love what you do. I was 14 or 15 years old when I started to work at it, just remember when I was midget AAA we had hockey and school together so we had a class of hockey and I would just go into the gym and shoot those big heavy orange pucks for half an hour just to get stronger.”
Be sure to check back in June for McKenna’s more complete breakdown on how to become a better puck handling goalie.