Some thirty minutes after the Devils defeated the rival Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, Martin Brodeur faced one last question regarding the iconic 1994 playoffs.
Did this series win purge the only professional home he has ever known of the ghosts of Mark Messier and Stephane Matteau?
“I think we’ve won three Stanley Cups since then,” Brodeur said. “But I think winning against them on the big stage, not just for me, but I think for the fans of New Jersey — the people that are supporting us and always taking a second seat to these guys for whatever reason — now they’ve got to be pretty happy.”
The Devils enter tonight’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on an emotional high after vanquishing their despised rival from Manhattan. There is an acknowledged satisfaction in earning eternal bragging rights following a regular and postseason series that was marked by a dozen fights and two screaming matches between the coaches.
Leave it to the man who has played in all six playoff series to revel in the vanquishing of the Devils’ despised foe.
“This is a lot more fun,” Brodeur said when asked to compare the 2012 Eastern Conference finals win to the sweep in the 2006 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. “This is to go to the big dance; go to what we do all year. When you’re a kid, you’re dreaming to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. So for us, winning today, gives us the opportunity to compete for it.
“Along the way, we beat a big rival that — especially for me, 18 years ago — everybody’s been talking about it,” Brodeur continued. “So now it’s 1-1 [in Eastern Conference finals].”
While the Rangers have made a living off that nearly two-decades old series win, the Devils have simply succeeded. — 15 playoff berths in 17 years, three Cups and four Cup finals appearances.
Brodeur has been there for every celebrated moment. No goaltender in NHL history has played more minutes (70029), played in more games (1,191) won more games (656), made more saves (27,312), or has more regular season (119) or playoff shutouts (24).
“He’s very impressive. He’s an impressive guy,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said last week. “He’s a calming influence on our team and in our dressing room. That’s why he’s the best of all-time.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman as he covers the Stanley Cup finals.