The Old Man and The Kid
The Old Man and The Kid are connected by time, jersey colour and once again by circumstance.
The Kid was born in the same year The Old Man was drafted. The Kid who scores goals, mostly important ones, was all of four months old when the New Jersey Devils traded up to select Martin Brodeur in 1990.
The Old Man, Brodeur, defied age and credulity Wednesday night at the Staples Center, putting on a clinic of inspired and occasionally spectacular play in goal. The Kid, the rookie, Adam Henrique, made a skill play in a tense third period to score the winning goal, keeping the Stanley Cup final very much alive.
For Brodeur, these moments have been happening his entire hockey life, just not as often in recent years. But in this up-and-down Stanley Cup run by the Devils, they're happening more and more.
For Henrique, this is all new, and yet it isn't. He scored the winner Wednesday night, keeping the Devils barely alive down 3-1 against the Los Angeles Kings in the best-of-seven final. This, after scoring the series winner against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final and a Game 7 winner in the first round against the Florida Panthers.
This is his first Stanley Cup playoffs, his first time to show himself.
Some players go their entire career without one big playoff moment, one overtime goal, one game-winner. Henrique now has three game changers, series changers, momentum changers.
"Some guys just have the knack," said Travis Zajac, the Devils centre, trying to explain what is so special about Henrique.
"He's grown a lot as a player and a person," said Brodeur, indicating Henrique was a rookie in name only. Other first-year players have had this kind of success before. Chris Drury and Milan Hejduk both had that kind of immediate impact with the Colorado Avalanche in the late '90s. But neither of them were 22 years old when it happened. Neither of them had that unusual sense of flair that Henrique has demonstrated in this year's playoff run.
This was supposed to be the night the Stanley Cup was presented. That was the thinking heading into Game 4 at the Staples Center. Los Angeles was poised and ready for its first Stanley Cup celebration. But the old man, the kid, a calm and patient Devils hockey team and a somewhat reluctant Los Angeles Kings team meant there will be a Game 5 Saturday night at the Prudential Center.
A Game 5 that many didn't believe would happen.
"We have one win," said Brodeur, "that's all."
The Devils have a win and some belief they didn't have a day ago. They didn't hate the way they played in the first three games of the series the way most of us hated it. They believed they were close. Snatching a victory at the Staples Center proved their quiet belief was warranted.
"I knew it was coming down to the last five, 10 minutes," said Henrique. Then he wanted the opportunity, the kind most rookies never get. He was trusted to be on the ice, in a tie game, with not a lot of time left.
"It's fun," he said. "This is where every kid dreams of playing one day. We know it's going to be tough to come back. We'll take it one game at a time ... Everyone wants to be out there and counted on. It's nice they have trust in me. I just play. I'm not thinking about what's going to happen if I score or if I don't."
When asked about his penchant for giant goals, Henrique wasn't sure how to answer: "I'm just a kid playing hockey, having some fun."
Brodeur isn't a kid, he just plays like one. His smile post-game, excited yet surprised, seemed as wide as his goal pads.
"We pulled it off, one game," said Brodeur. "We'll take it one game at a time. But I'm sure they're not happy to make that trip. We'll try and make it miserable for them again.
"You know, I think we wanted to make them jump on a plane and come to New Jersey. We had to go anyway. Might as well get a game out of it."