The Eastern Conference final will be battle of goaltenders featuring the best goalie in the game today vs. the greatest goaltender of the modern era.
The "Battle of the Hudson" will pit Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers vs. Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils in a best-of-seven series in which the winner and their team will advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
The two teams have tons of history, and the current squads are very familiar with each other. The series should be very close with both goaltenders playing a big role for their teams, but what side has the edge?
The regular season is very important when looking at both goaltenders because where each goaltender's team finished in the standings impacted their road to the Eastern Conference final.
| 39-18-5 | .930 Sv% | 1.97 GAA | 8 SO |
| 31-21-4 | .907 Sv% | 2.41 GAA | 2 SO |
During the regular season, in addition to being named an All-Star, Lundqvist was nominated for both the Vezina and Hart trophies for both his excellence in goaltending and his value to the Rangers. He had his best regular season ever, and for that reason, the Rangers finished first in the Eastern Conference.
Martin Brodeur's years of playing 77 games a season are far gone, but the 40-year-old goaltender came through when the Devils needed him to. Brodeur won 31 games and led the Devils to the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Lundqvist entered the NHL in 2005-06 right after the lockout, and he has dominated Brodeur and the Devils his entire career, and that's apparent in the following statistic.
Henrik Lundqvist's Record vs. Martin Brodeur:
Martin Brodeur's Record vs. Henrik Lundqvist:
It has been said during many a broadcast that Lundqvist elevates his game against Brodeur because in order to beat the best, he has the best.
In the early to late 90s to the mid 2000s, the Rangers had Mike Richter opposing Brodeur, but now, Lundqvist is in this role, and he can hold his own as he has developed into an elite goaltender in the NHL.
For years, Brodeur was a bench mark that Lundqvist measured himself by, but the roles reversed this season.
In an interview with Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger, Brodeur had this to say about Lundqvist.
"He's a Vezina candidate. He's unbelievable. He's kind of the top goalie in the NHL right now," Brodeur said. "And I think I was in that position once. I played against Patrick (Roy) and Dominik Hasek. I played against all the guys during maybe the top years in their careers.
Lundqvist clearly has the advantage in this situation because he has consistently elevated his game against Brodeur and the Devils.
Just like the head-to-head numbers were completely one-sided, so are the numbers in terms of experience.
Martin Brodeur is arguably the greatest goaltender of the modern era, and he owns almost every major goaltending record.
Here's a list of major records that Brodeur owns.
• Most Wins All Time: 656
• Most Regular-Season Shutouts: 119
• Most Games Played All Time by a Goaltender: 1,146
• Most 30 Win Seasons: 13
• Most Minutes All Time: 67.386
• Most Postseason Shutouts: 24
Brodeur is also a three-time Stanley Cup champion, a five-time William Jennings Trophy and four-time Vezina Trophy winner.
Henrik Lundqvist has been in the NHL seven years and has registered 30 wins or more in each season. He's off to a solid start and has gradually gotten better, but it's clear that experience-wise, he loses this battle.
The one redeeming quality for Lundqvist is that he has finally taken his team to the conference final, and he has come up big in high-pressure elimination games. These games only further give Lundqvist experience for him to build upon in the future.
Technique is so vital for a goaltender when it comes to gaining an advantage over opposing shooters. Both Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur have contrasting styles that make them tough opponents.
Blue Seats Blog is one of the best Ranger blogs on the internet today, and one of their writers did a great job breaking down Henrik Lundqvist' goaltending style.
He has a fairly deep crouch and holds his gloves high. The amount of hip/knee strength the man possesses is something to behold. All of these idiosyncrasies give Hank one of the widest butterflies in the league and an unparalleled ability to guard the bottom third of the net. Shooters have told members of the media that there isn’t a goalie in the league that they see less net behind than Hank. He uses every bit of his 6’ 1” frame to make himself as big as possible, which is essential given how deep in the net he plays.
In order to beat Lundqvist, the Devils will likely attempt to expose him high glove side. This is one of Henrik's biggest weaknesses.
For Justin's full breakdown, click here.
In short, Brodeur is a hybrid goaltender who has a solid glove hand and is a great puck-handler, and that benefits the Devils in attempting to limit an opponents from setting up in the offensive zone.
Brodeur likes to stay on his feet and is always aware of where he is on the ice so that enables him to act and react. His style of play will force the Rangers to crash the net and attempt to bury rebounds.
Justin also did a breakdown on Brodeur which you can check out here.
Head-to-head in the playoffs, both goaltenders have won and lost a series.
In 2005-06, the New York Rangers were swept in a four-game series vs. the New Jersey Devils. Lundqvist lost three of the four games played in that series as he was battling an undisclosed injury. Martin Brodeur won all four games of that series.
In 2007-08, the New York Rangers beat the Devils in five games in which Lundqvist won all four, and Brodeur lost four and lost one game.
Both teams are drastically different now in both style and makeup now, so this series will be the "rubber game" for each goaltender.
One goaltender is looking at his first run for a Stanley Cup, and one is looking at one of his last cup runs, so this series will be very special to each netminder.
Both goaltenders will play a huge role for their team in this series, however, Lundqvist, in my opinion, will have the larger impact for the Rangers.
Lundqvist is playing his best playoff hockey and is primed for a huge run. The 2012 Hart and Vezina trophy candidate has been rock solid throughout the playoffs and is a huge reason why the Rangers survived through three elimination games and two Game 7's.
After going through these trials already, there's no way Henrik and the Rangers will allow themselves to come up short against Brodeur and the Devils.
Henrik has an 8-6 record with a 1.68 G.A.A. and a shutout in the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs to this point.
He has not shown any sign of fatigue or drop in play, and that is a huge reason to believe that Lundqvist will continue to elevate his game against the Devils.
The way the Rangers adapted their style late in the series against the Capitals should also limit the Devils' scoring chances and in turn that will give the Rangers a better chance to win.
Game 1 will be interesting to see how both goaltenders perform. Lundqvist is battle-ready after just finishing off the Capitals, and Brodeur has been off for about a week.
No matter how you slice it, both are exceptional goaltenders and will go toe-to-toe in an exhilarating battle for the Eastern Conference championship.