NEW YORK--Does anybody actually believe Martin Brodeur, at the age of 40, has become a headhunter?
Of course not.
But with the New York Rangers making every game they play about shot-blocking - how uncomfortable it must feel when the puck is actually on their sticks - it had to happen. There had to be some controversy, real or manufactured, erupt from blocking shots.
And so it did today. Well, for one day, anyway.
Brodeur was in a surprisingly jovial mood after New Jersey's 3-0 loss to the Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final on Monday. He talked about being unable to see Henrik Lundqvist 90 per cent of the time because so many Rangers were packed in the shooting lanes in front of him, and then added, "Hopefully we'll be able to hurt a few guys (by) getting one-timers in the foot or their head or something."
Anybody who was actually there listening would know that Brodeur was joking. Whether it was funny or not, that's up to the individual. But he wasn't seriously suggesting the Devils should attempt to injure Ranger shot-blockers by aiming for their craniums.
But some are taking it that way. Or twisting it that way. The headline in today's New Yorkk Post is "Ready, Maim, Fire." Heck, it's as good an off-day story as there is in a series that started off very dry on Monday and may well stay that way.
The reality is the puck is a lethal weapon and shooters fire high, or at the heads, of well-protected goalies all the time to soften them up. But that's with a standing target. There's not really a way to target a moving, diving shotblocker. More to the point, people who understand the game know that shooting high through a crowd endangers your teammates as much as your opponents, which is why its not done, or is very much frowned upon.
As far as players who dive or use all manner of unconventional body parts to get in front of shots, they deserve pretty much what you get. Rangers forward Brian Boyle narrowly avoided getting a shot in the face last series, but his "technique" of trying to get in the way of the shot was so absurd that he was putting himself in danger, rather than anything the shooter might be doing. When you see Ilya Kovalchuk fire a missile from the blueline to the top corner as he did in the clinching game against Philly, it does make you wonder what would happen if an opponent had tried to block it.
Quite frankly, its absurd and boring the way in which blocking shots have become such a big story. It has made goal-scoring almost an accident, a fortunate ricochet, like if the NBA had no rules about swatting the ball away above the cylinder.
It terms of pain tolerance, it is quite amazing what players are willing to take to block a shot. Turning it into an attempt to injure, however, is rather ridiculous. If Ryan Callahan or Dan Girard throws their body in front of a shot and takes it in the throat, will there be calls for the Devils to be penalized or suspended? C'mon. This is a classic example of the propensity of people, sports fans or otherwise, to be outraged just to be outraged.
No wonder that Brodeur, for the first time in his career, is now declining to speak on the morning of games. He's more available than most anyway, but when he's clearly joking and its turned into a threat, you can understand his frustration.