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Past, present, future

History, success entwine goalies Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2001


DENVER -- Patrick Roy said too much is made of goaltending matchups and how much they mean during the playoffs.

It is fine to stop pucks, the Avalanche goaltender said, but it is not done in a vacuum. The rest of the team must get into the act.

"You can stop all the shots except one, and you could lose 1-0, and big deal," Roy said after Friday's practice at the Pepsi Center. "As a goalie, what you want is winning games. It doesn't matter how, as long as you win."

That is fine and dandy except when juicy storylines collide, like the one coming together tonight when Roy faces the defending champion Devils and goaltender Martin Brodeur in the first game of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.

It is not only that the game's best goaltenders are leading the best teams. It is that the torch, even if only symbolically, could be passed from Roy, whom many consider the game's greatest goalie, to Brodeur, who one day may be.

All Brodeur has to do is beat his childhood hero.

"For young goaltenders throughout North America, this final should be a delight for them," Colorado coach Bob Hartley said. "These guys have two things in common: The red light does not go on."

How could Brodeur not have worshiped Roy as he led the Canadiens to the 1985-86 Cup? The 14-year-old Brodeur -- who grew up in Montreal and whose father, Denis, was the Canadiens team photographer -- hung Roy's pictures in his room.

They met two years later when Brodeur helped his father on a photo shoot.

"It wasn't like I was in awe of him or anything," Brodeur remembered Friday. "I was intrigued just to meet him and see how he was. Meeting him in person was fun."

Roy seemed larger than life.

"He came at a time when there wasn't much to the Montreal Canadiens, and he did so well, I think it blew everyone's mind," Brodeur said.

Roy's 484 regular-season and 133 playoff victories are NHL records. The 35-year-old also leads in playoff games (212) and playoff shutouts (17).

After his first 40-win regular season, he is 12-4 in the playoffs with two shutouts and a 1.74 goals-against average. He is trying for his fourth Stanley Cup, having led the Canadiens to the title twice and the Avalanche once.

Brodeur, 29, has won two Cups, his first with the Devils in 1994-95. His 286 regular-season victories, including three 40-win seasons, are 61 more than Roy had after eight seasons. His 62 victories in his first eight playoff seasons, including this one, are five fewer.

He is 12-6 in the playoffs with four shutouts, which ties a season record, and a 1.84 goals-against average. "It's going to be fun playing him," Brodeur said, "not because he's a guy I looked up to but because he's a clutch player. It's a great challenge to beat him."

If Brodeur's feelings are warm and fuzzy, Roy seems cool and distant when discussing his rival. Roy said he doesn't remember meeting Brodeur in Montreal. He was asked if the two are friends.

"Well, it depends what you mean by the word friends," Roy said. "We always have a lot of fun when we play like the All-Star Game and stuff," he said. "I'm not going to call him on a Tuesday night and see how he is feeling. But, I mean, I have a lot of respect for him and for what he does, and that's it."

Brodeur may have the edge. Roy sometimes goes to his knees too quickly, which means he is vulnerable high, and his puck-handling is average. Brodeur stands so upright, it is hard to find a place to put the puck. No NHL goalie handles the puck better.

Avalanche left wing Shjon Podein said the best way to beat Brodeur is to distract him.

"I think we have to get in front of him, for sure," he said. "The less he can see the less stops he can make."

Same for Roy.

"On a straight shot, you really can't beat him," Devils right wing Alexander Mogilny said. "If he sees the shot, he's pretty much 100 percent going to stop it."

Roy knows nothing is going to stop the comparisons between he and Brodeur. And if the Devils win the Cup, Brodeur will likely become the new measure of an NHL goaltender.

It's a measurement Roy has taken.

"I think Marty is the best in the league to handle the puck," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind he is playing the puck superb. He has been consistent throughout his career. A lot of people said he was protected by a great defense, but you still have to make the saves. And that's what he has done every year, and you have to appreciate that."

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