Lost in the sheer jubilation of Canada's overtime victory against the USA for the gold medal was Martin Brodeur's sudden fall from grace.
Obviously I use that term very loosely, as he is still an elite goaltender, as we all know very well.
But it was certainly odd as a fan to see a team with Brodeur on the active roster opt to put him on the bench.
I'm sure it felt odd for Brodeur as well. One of the biggest games in hockey history, and he's sitting on the wrong side of the boards with a cap on? Doesn't seem right, and I'm sure he wasn't anywhere near happy about it, but it sure worked out for the host country in the end.
Now it's March 1, and we go back to NHL hockey, jumping right into the crucial stretch of the season: six weeks remaining, with only four teams more than six points out of a playoff spot. In short, 26 of the 30 teams are fighting for playoff spots. It will be an amazing month and a half of hockey, which is only fitting to follow the instant classic that was played yesterday afternoon.
As the Devils return to the ice, Brodeur returns to his spot as a No. 1 goaltender in New Jersey's crease—rested, refueled, and hopefully a little ticked off.
Brodeur's last game in a Devils uniform was on Feb. 13. He wouldn't play again until he was in a Team Canada jersey the following Thursday, barely escaping from Switzerland's grasp in a shootout victory. Three days later, he'd fall to the up-and-coming USA team, and that would be the last we'd see of Martin Brodeur in the Olympics.
Counting Feb. 13's game, in the past 15 days, Brodeur has played only three games—bad news for Brodeur's international outlook, but great news for the Devils, as "fatigue" was a common word used to describe the Devils in the final month before the Olympic vacation. A rested Brodeur can be nothing but a good thing.
Hopefully, though, Brodeur is more than just rested. Hopefully he is determined—determined to show that his poor play in Canada was no more than an aberration, no more than a slump. I expect a Brodeur that is hell-bent on leading these Devils to the promised land, the team that needs him to perform at his best if they have a legitimate shot at a Cup this year and in the years to come.
Hopefully at some point during Sunday's game, Brodeur looked down the other side of the ice and saw Ryan Miller, a goalie who put an entire country on his back for two weeks, and absorbed some of that leadership and determination that was just radiating off Miller in Vancouver.
Maybe he even took a glance at Roberto Luongo, the man who stole his starting goaltender status on Team Canada, and realized the game needed to be stepped up at this stage in his career.
Brodeur walked into Vancouver as the best goalie in the world at that moment. He might not have walked out as that.
Career-wise, Brodeur is undoubtedly the best. He's had the best career of any goalie in NHL history, while compiling numbers that are just out of this world (aka astronomical). He deserves everything he gets.
But Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo raised their games at the Olympics. Brodeur did not. Simple as that.
It's been said before, and now it's going to be said again: The Devils will go only as far as Marty Brodeur takes them. He's in a prime position, with how rested he is and the amount of talent that is around him, to take them as far as they could possibly want to go.
The ingredients are there. Now it's time to make the solution.