It could not have been more perfect.
Tonight, the Devils were graced by the return of a few injured players. Paul Martin had missed some time with an injury. The ancient Brendan Shanahan returned from naptime. And of course, the man we've all been waiting for was back.
Starting in goal tonight for the first time in 16 weeks was Martin Brodeur, the best goalie in NHL history. Naturally, there were questions abound.
The most glaring question was if Brodeur would be rusty. While his arm had been reported as fully healed, and he's been practicing, it was still his first game in four months. Would he be ready for game action?
Of course, there was the question of the injured hand. Sure, it was fully healed, but does that mean he can't re-injure it? Is it still a little raw? Does Marty favor that arm at all? He would surely be tested. All signs were positive, but he had yet to play in actual game, so it was all essentially worthless speculation.
And there was that haunting question about Scott Clemmensen. There had been some issue as to whether there would be a conflict in Jersey as to who had the right to the throne. Marty's a legend, sure, but Clemmer's held the fort down, so why mess with a good thing? Especially with the rust issue and the fear of re-injuring the arm. Would a timeshare be in order?
Those questions were answered when Clemmensen was sent down, but another question lingered: Did the Devils make the right move?
While sending him down now meant he didn't need to clear waivers, the Devils may need him if Marty isn't 100%. Might it have been worth it to keep him a little longer? They can't simply recall him now, or he'd go through re-entry waivers. The Devils could potentially have set themselves up for trouble.
But Marty answered all those questions tonight, and he answered them definitively.
Martin Brodeur is back. He's back in vintage Marty form, not favoring his arm, not showing any signs of rust. It's back to the old days of "Who needs a backup goaltender?" Marty didn't just play well tonight; Marty was perfect.
How fitting to earn a shutout in his first game back. He now stands merely four ofers behind Terry Sawchuk, and needs just seven more wins to break the all-time record set by Patrick Roy. Incidentally, the Devils played Roy's former team, the Colorado Avalanche tonight.
Beware, Eastern Conference. The biggest addition at the trade deadline was not actually done via a trade.
The Atlantic Division-leading Devils just got that much better.