We've all heard the talk by now.
"He's too old."
"He's lost a step."
"He can be beaten."
"He's no longer elite."
Martin Brodeur has surely heard the whispers, too. But the 40-year-old netminder, who has been through more postseason battles than anyone in the league, just smirks and shrugs them off. Confidence in his own abilities has never been an issue for the winning-est goalie in NHL history. It's never been a question for his teammates, either.
"There's always some save he makes or something that makes the highlights that makes you say, 'Wow, I don't know how he got that.' He was fantastic," said forward David Clarkson after the Devils' Game 5 win. "He's a big reason we're here today. Some of those saves he made, you're on the bench shaking your head."
As New Jersey prepares for Game 6 in Los Angeles and tries to make history as just the second team ever (and first since 1942) to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup Finals, Brodeur's play has stood out as one of the main reasons the Devils are still alive.
While leading the Devils into Game 6 of the Finals, Brodeur has registered a 14-8-3 record, including an outstanding 2.00 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Both stats place him in the top five of starting goaltenders for the playoffs. Of course, only one player ahead of him, Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick, is still playing.
Perhaps the most effective part of Brodeur's game doesn't always show up on the score sheet. He has made some incredible saves at key moments that prevented Los Angeles from seizing momentum and provided leadership and experience on a team made up of mostly first-time participants in the Stanley Cup Finals.
"Marty has made some unbelievable saves," said veteran Patrik Elias after Brodeur outplayed Quick for a second straight game and secured a Game 5 victory for New Jersey.
If New Jersey does climb the mountain and overcome the three-to-zero deficit, it will surely be due in large part to Brodeur's play.
Quick has looked like the favorite for the Conn Smythe since the first round, and there's always a chance that he could be given the award in a losing effort (as Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere was after losing to the Devils in 2003). But as good as Quick has been, it's hard to imagine a player more valuable to his team than Brodeur has been during this magical run for New Jersey.