It is the biggest concern for Canadians when it comes to our men’s Olympic hockey team: goaltending. Because Canada’s options are full of question marks.
The days of Martin Brodeur (the younger one), Patrick Roy, and even Curtis Joseph are long gone, and executive director Steve Yzerman won’t have an easy time deciding the three goaltenders to fill out the Canadian roster. With results varying on a day-to-day basis, fans, pundits and bloggers are getting reactionary when it comes to the Olympic status of their favourite players.
We’ve picked up the cause and will be taking a weekly look at the top-10 Canadian netminders and where they rank on the Sochi food chain.
Here is our first edition of the Sochi stock watch.
1) Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
His record isn’t as strong as some of the other goalies on this list, but that’s more of a reflection of his team. Price has put up outstanding numbers across the board and has proven to be the most reliable of the bunch. Based on his recent body of work, he is the early favourite to start the opener in Sochi.
2) Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
The Mike Gillis-Cory Schneider debacle hurt Luongo’s reputation until John Tortorella went to Vancouver. Under Torts, Luongo has regained the form that buoyed Canada to a gold medal in 2010, winning nine of 16 starts and posting two shutouts. And the best part: Canada won’t have to worry about taking on his contract that “sucks.”
3) Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
Is Smith an elite player or a product of the Coyotes system? (Exhibit A: Ilya Bryzgalov) Hard to say, but he’s done everything he can to lockdown one of the three goalie spots. He has played at an all-star level since going to Phoenix and has even outscored David Clarkson this year.
4) Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
With a Cup on his resumé, an 11-2-3 record, a .917 save percentage and 2.22 GAA entering Friday’s play, the 28-year-old is quickly developing into a top-of-the-line goaltender
5) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
At his worst when the games matter the most, which is the best recipe for a spot on Canada’s roster. Fleury wasn’t invited to the orientation camp after a horrific playoffs. He has performed relatively well in the regular season but it won’t be enough to overcome his previous faults, including for Canada.
THE LONG SHOTS
6) Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild
What a story this would be. Harding wasn’t on anyone’s radar coming into the season, but his play has been as good as any goalie to start the 2013-14 campaign. In 12 starts, he has 10 wins, two shutouts, an incredible 1.21 GAA and a .947 save percentage.
7) Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs
He may not have enough experience for serious consideration, but he’s lived up to the hype in in Toronto, even playing behind a porous defence.
8) James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs
So much for Reimer riding the bench. He has continued his strong play from last season. His rebound control has drastically improved and his save percentage numbers continue to rank among the top Canadian goaltenders.
9) Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
The first-ballot Hall of Famer still has a few games left in the tank, as evidenced by his back-to-back shutouts and three consecutive wins this week. Most predicted Brodeur wouldn’t even be the No. 1 guy on the Devils let alone for his country, but his experience is unmatched.
10) Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
We’re still not sure why Holtby was invited to Canada’s camp in the first place. As good as he’s been in small doses he certainly doesn’t have the numbers or the pedigree to be in the mix for one of the three spots. He’s even a stretch to make our top-10 list.