It Doesn’t Matter Who’s In Net for Canada

The sky is falling today in Canada after the men’s team lost to the USA in the final round robin game of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  It’s bad enough that Canada finished sixth in the preliminary standings.  It’s worse that the quarter final opponent will now be Russia.  It’s apocalyptic that Martin Brodeur lost the game.  Just about every goalie debate pre-Olympics dictated that Brodeur was the starter, Roberto Luongo the backup and Marc-Andre Fleury the third man out.  But today Twitter is abuzz with condemnation of Brodeur.

Luongo was the respectful backup in Torino but now a nation looks to him for hockey redemption.

Brodeur did not have a stellar game against the Americans.  But it certainly was not as bad as Canadian fans are making it out to be.

1.  Despite out-shooting the Americans by almost a 2:1 ratio the Canadian were actually outplayed around their own net.  Ryan Kesler’s empty net goal was a perfect example of how the Americans were out-hustling the Canadians around their own net.  So Brodeur faced multiple scenarios where he had to scramble or dive across his crease in order to counter American scoring opportunities that never should have happened.  Any goalie needs a ton of luck to win every one of those battles.

2.  Brodeur made a number of stellar saves that kept Canada close when the Americans threatened to pad their lead.  Ryan Miller played a great game for Team USA but he faced a lot of perimeter shots.  That’s not meant to take anything away from Miller but simply to point out that Brodeur faced more challenges than his defense should have allowed.

Everyone in the hockey world seems to believe Roberto Luongo should start the playoff game against Germany.  Yes, the same people who cried “but he’s never won anything” now feel he’s Canada’s last hope.  (Let’s ignore for now the one place Luongo has had incredible success… in international games)  Coach Mike Babcock should indeed go to Luongo but not because Brodeur can’t beat Germany and then Russia.  It should be Luongo for the same reason it was Brodeur back in the 2002 Salt Lame Games.  Curtis Joseph started the first game and didn’t get the job done.  I don’t think anyone doubted Cujo’s ability but a change was needed to get the team back on track.  Brodeur won the next game then carried Canada to the gold medal.  Now Brodeur finds himself in Cujo’s position.

When I got these in the Olympic ticket lottery I figured I'd have trouble selling seats to see Latvia vs. Switzerland. But now I'll have a great view of Roberto Luongo and Team Canada taking on Germany!

While it doesn’t make sense to play musical chairs with the goalies now that Canada is into a win-or-go-home position let’s not forget that last year’s Stanley Cup winning goalie is also in the Team Canada locker room.    You could probably get 1,000,000 to 1 odds (if you could find an ex-goalie who now moonlights as a bookie) that Fleury won’t leave the press box for the remainder of the Olympics but Babcock has a luxury unlike any other coach in the tournament… depth in goal.  So no, it doesn’t matter who plays in net for Team Canada.  If they capitalize on opportunities at the other end of the rink and keep their opponents to the outside in their own end they could win the gold medal with me in net.  That is if my last name were Brodeur, Luongo or Fleury.

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