Photo: Mike Ridewood/Getty Images
Martin Brodeur is one of three goalies looking to impress Mike Babock over the next week or two.
Joey Chestnut is to hot dogs as MJ is to tongue wagging as Canada is to the McPizza? Canadians can argue the analogy, but based on recent Olympic showings, it’s Sweden that’s synonymous with hockey, not Canada. Sweden took home the gold medal in Lillehammer (1994) defeating Canada in the final, as well as the last Olympics in Turin (2006). Canada on the other hand, has won only one gold medal (2002) over the last 14 Olympic hockey tourneys and failed to medal at all in 2006. How does Team Canada plan on erasing their connection to Ronald McDonald's saucy creation and bring back Olympic hockey as their national treasure? One word: goaltending.
The Vancouver Olympics is less than two weeks away and Team Canada has yet to name their No. 1 goalie for the tournament. After watching Henrik Lundqvist post a 5-1 record and allowing only 12 goals en route to a Swedish gold medal in Turin, Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock understands the value of choosing the right goaltender. Plus, he wants to be on this year's cover of Aftonbladet. Deciding between Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury is no easy task, but the consensus thinking is Babcock will wait and see who has the hottest waffle as the NHL heads into hiatus and appoint him, Next Top Goaltender. We don't have the same level of patience as Babcock, so we went ahead and broke down the three nominees to see which one seemed the most qualified.
Martin Brodeur: Age is but a number and the 37-year-old Brodeur is living proof. The Devils goaltender leads the NHL this season with 32 wins and is hockey's all-time shutout leader and victory king. In addition to his NHL accolades, Brodeur lead team Canada to the 2002 gold medal in Salt Lake City posting the lowest goals against average and going undefeated in the tourney. At the time, Marc-Andre was only 17 and Luongo was still goaltending for the Panthers, fantasizing at the thought of mixing palm trees and ice rinks. Brodeur is also only one of two NHL goalies to score goals in the regular season and playoffs, so that's something. There's one major knock on Brodeur and it's a big one. How are you suppose to intimidate the opposition when you're wearing this helmet and mask? Unless there's a crowd of Brodeur mask lovers roaming the earth that we don't know about, Marty may have to change his protective gear if he wants to lock down the No. 1 spot.
Roberto Luongo: The 30-year-old Luongo has only two playoff series victories in his career, but did guide the Canadian national team to World Championships in 2003 and 2004 as Sean Burke and Brodeur dealt with injuries throughout each tournament. Successful or not, you can't say Luongo isn't battle-tested as he holds the NHL record for most shots faced in a single game (76 - April 11, 2007) as well as most shots faced in a single season (2,475 - 2003-04). Luongo would also be playing in front of his NHL home crowd, who were most definitely responsible for him winning last year's Scotiabank Fan Fav Award (presented to the NHLer with the most fan votes). If you can get past the fact that Luongo has yet to win a Stanley Cup, Vezina Trophy or Olympic gold, he would be a great choice. Will it be eeny, meeny, miny, Luongo come Vancouver?
Marc-Andre Fleury: The young gun of the group has been the most successful goalie as of late, going to consecutive Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009 and winning his first title last season as the Penguins defeated the Red Wings in seven. Fleury has the lowest goals against average and save percentage of the three but it's his nickname of "Flower Power" that really got our attention. Judging by his Rock Band drum technique he also possesses the quick glove hand needed to succeed in the Winter Olympics. He's been the hottest of the three goalies, winning five of his last six starts and he does have an inside man with Crosby being an alternate captain on Team Canada. Can Sid the Kid pull some strings and get the youngster a job as Canada's lead stopper?
Our Take: There's three periods and three goalies, so why not give each goalie one period? Having one primary goalie does give Canada a chance to develop team chemistry, but also takes away the chance of having a three-head stuffed animal named Marc-Roberto Brodeur. That's something that the kids in Canada deserve!