Commentary

He made history, but Marty far from done

Updated: March 18, 2009, 6:10 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur pumped his fists before being swallowed by jubilant teammates, and the packed house at the Prudential Center chanted his name over and over.

It was history.

But here's the thing: If history suggests something musty and complete, then this moment wasn't history, because Martin Brodeur looks like he's just getting warmed up.

Maybe that's why when the New Jersey Devils goaltender gave up trying to scissor his way through the netting around his goal and took a victory lap around the ice following his NHL-record 552nd regular-season win Tuesday night, it was less about celebrating the completion of a task and more about celebrating something more.

An evolving masterpiece, perhaps.

After he embraced his father, Denis, who spent most of the night with his ever-present camera trained on his son, and met briefly with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Brodeur talked about his relief that it was over.

[+] EnlargeMartin Brodeur
Andy Marlin/Getty ImagesMarch madness? Devils goalie Martin Brodeur cut down his own net after setting the all-time wins record Tuesday in Newark.

That was, in fact, his first thought when the buzzer ended in the New Jersey Devils' 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

"It's finally over," he said. "You know, I think the road to it was pretty easy to a certain extent. I think I didn't have to have the hiccups of losing a couple of games and have it in the back of my mind. And that was one thing I feared a little bit. And so, for me, when I heard the buzzer, I was like, 'Wow, it's over now. This is good.'

"And, again, I didn't want this chase to this record to be a disturbance to the team because we played so well all year and now we're coming into a last stretch here to get ourselves into the playoffs. And I didn't want it to drag too long."

Although he faced 32 shots Tuesday night, Brodeur barely seemed to break a sweat.

Was there a moment when it appeared as though Brodeur might be out of position, might not know exactly where the puck was and where it was going? No.

Was there a rebound to be had all night? There was the one after Brodeur turned aside a dangerous Brian Campbell shot with his blocker and then calmly scooped up the rebound as it bounced toward the goal late in the second period. On the replay, it appeared as though Brodeur was smiling behind his mask, savoring the moment.

If it has not always been so, it just seems that way. It was the kind of performance Brodeur has produced how many times since his first NHL appearance during the 1991-92 season? Well, 552 for those keeping score at home.

On the first Chicago goal, a power-play marker by Cam Barker, Brodeur was screened and had no chance. Then, there was a bit of a stunner when Dustin Byfuglien's turn-around slapper found the net with 2:03 left and brought some drama to the proceedings.

"Well, I felt pretty good, definitely a lot of work, so I didn't have time too much to think outside the box too much," Brodeur said. "And with 10 minutes left, I'm like, 'All right, this is going to probably happen here,' and I was kind of looking at the clock. I was a clock watcher a little bit."

There is nothing in Brodeur that suggests he sees this record as anything but a mark on a line that extends well into the distance. Earlier in the day, Brodeur said he was looking forward to getting Tuesday's game over with and getting on the plane with his teammates and heading for Carolina, where the Devils will play Wednesday night.

No one knows, of course, what will happen in 10 years, or 20, or 100. Maybe someone will come along and put up more wins than Brodeur. But we doubt it.

Consider this:

Brodeur is just 36.

In the past few weeks since returning from elbow surgery, he has shown he is nothing if not resilient, winning eight of nine starts to erase Patrick Roy's record in stunning fashion.

He plans to honor his current contract, which extends three more seasons. Imagine if he averages 30-35 wins a season over that time. It's not inconceivable he could end up with 650 wins.

Who on earth will come along and challenge that number?

The way the game is played now, with an emphasis on balanced goaltending and few netminders commanding the playing time Brodeur has throughout his career, the easy answer is no one.

Curtis Joseph is at the end of his career and he's the closest to Brodeur among active netminders with 451 victories, a full century behind Brodeur. Next is Chris Osgood with 385.

Trying to imagine what it would take for any current top goaltender to topple Brodeur is like trying to wrap your head around cold fusion. It just doesn't compute.

[+] EnlargeMartin Brodeur
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesMartin Brodeur was mobbed by his teammates after setting the record, but they later encouraged him to take a victory lap.

Miikka Kiprusoff, Roberto Luongo, Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco are all top netminders and all are at least 300 victories behind Brodeur. 300. They are Brodeur's peers and they are a lifetime away in terms of catching him ... and that's even if he never played another game.

"You have to play a lot of games to be able to win that many games, and that's the bottom line," Brodeur said before Tuesday's game.

Maybe that's what made the moment so memorable.

This is not a player establishing a mark as he closes out a career, a player looking to make a final statement. This is a player who is already thinking ahead to the playoffs and another run at a Stanley Cup.

"Now it will be old news by the time the playoffs start, and that's the way I wanted it to happen," Brodeur said.

Devils coach Brent Sutter, a member of the dynastic New York Islanders teams of the 1980s, was asked where he thought Brodeur's performance ranked.

"Well, I think it's simple. I think a record like this speaks for itself," Sutter said. "I have played on some very, very good hockey teams that have won Stanley Cups, and just some real good teams. As far as a goaltender is concerned, being around Marty for the last year and three quarters, whatever it's been, you can understand why he's accomplished what he's accomplished, and also understand why the organization's accomplished what they've accomplished here as far as success. It goes hand in hand."

Someone asked Brodeur before the game if he thought his assault on the record book was getting enough attention locally. Yet from the moment Brodeur's face appeared on the video scoreboard during the national anthem, sending the crowd into delirium, it was clear everyone in attendance was in tune with the moment.

After one save late in the second, the chant went up again -- "Marty, Marty, Marty" -- and then again late in the third period as the record came fully into view.

Brodeur was asked what will stay with him from this night.

"I think the ovation from the crowd. Me skating around the rink," Brodeur said.

Jamie Langenbrunner, seeing the struggles Brodeur was having cutting through the netting, came over and told him the team would take over.

"He goes, 'We'll cut it down. Go take a lap. I think the fans deserve it,'" Brodeur said. "I've done it with the Stanley Cup on top of my head as a team thing, but that was really a personal thing and it was pretty cool. I had a lot of friends and family. I was trying to look at them in the stands while I was skating. It was definitely a great moment for me."

Indeed.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.