It's hard to imagine there wasn't at least a trace of irony for Martin Brodeur in answering questions about Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist Sunday on the eve of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Lundqvist has put together a career year as MVP of a top-seeded Rangers squad and earned nominations as both a Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist along the way, sure. But Brodeur, arguably the best goaltender of all time, has amassed three Stanley Cup Championships, 656 wins and a staggering 119 shutouts during his illustrious 18-year career. Oh, and four Vezina Trophies.
Regardless, the recently-turned-40 Brodeur gave credit to his cross-river rival, applauding the season Lundqvist has put together.
"He's a Vezina candidate. He's the one that's been -- I don't know -- he's unbelievable. He is lately. He's kind of the top goalie in the league right now," Brodeur said.
But with the accolades also comes the pressure, as Brodeur deftly alluded in Sunday's post-practice press conference.
"I think I was in that position once," Brodeur said. "Played against Patrick [Roy], played against Dominik Hasek. I played against all the guys that maybe, you know, the top years in their career, but for me it's kind of nice to be able to compete against them, regardless of what's going to happen."
"I'll do my best to try to match up, but it's going to be pretty hard," Brodeur continued. "He's a pretty good goalie."
Sincere flattery, or subtle gamesmanship?
Stay tuned as Brodeur and Lundqvist square off beginning Monday in Game 1 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden.