Mike Babcock has faith in his goalie candidates for the Canadian Olympic team. Do you?
The head coach of the Canadian Olympic men's team remarked at the orientation camp in Calgary six weeks ago that he believed somebody in the Canadian crease will step up and play well and get the job done in Sochi. Do you?
Babcock admitted Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Mike Smith and others did not distinguish themselves late last season, but he was confident somebody will step up, turn the tide and play well in the first three months of this season. Somebody would separate himself from the pack.
"I would say to you that the other countries had a better last three months of the season than our country did in net," Babcock said in Calgary. "Let's watch the first three months of this season.
"One of these goalies will be real good. And one of these goalies will be hot going in, that everyone will know who's playing goal for Canada."
Three nights does not make three months, but you have to admit you were watching to see which Canadian goalie has the early edge. Carey Price? Roberto Luongo? Corey Crawford? Mike Smith? Braden Holtby?
Well, let's take a boo at how their individual seasons began.
Price had a horrific conclusion to his regular season and the playoffs were much the same. He did not look sharp in the Montreal Canadiens' season opener at home, a 4-3 loss to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. He has a new goalie coach and, like the others, has streamlined equipment to get used to. He appeared uncomfortable in both areas.
Crawford hasn't been taken seriously as a contender even though he's the reigning Stanley Cup-champion goalkeeper. Remember all those concerns about his glove hand early against the Boston Bruins in the final? He won his season opener, but he did not look sharp as he gave up four goals on 32 shots to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
After losing his No. 1 status with the Vancouver Canucks, only to regain it when Cory Schneider was traded last June, Luongo is one motivated hombre. He was sharp early on in the Canucks' opener in San Jose on Thursday. He held his team in there with 16 first-period stops. But then the guys in front of him got sloppy. Luongo had no answer for a screen shot, sudden turnovers and the two-on-none break he faced. Poof, he lost 4-1.
Smith saw his fabulous 2011-12 season, in which he steered the Phoenix Coyotes to the West final, suspected somewhat when he was mediocre at best last season. There is a wait-and-see approach with this character because he's been up-and-down in his career.
Just ask Canadian Olympic team executive director Steve Yzerman, who cut Smith loose from his days in Tampa Bay a few years ago. Well, Smith started off well. He put a tic in the win column with a 23-save effort in a 4-1 decision at home against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Holtby was a bit of a surprise invite to the orientation camp. However, he has been outstanding for the Washington Capitals in their last two playoff pushes with a .931 save percentage. That has not been the case so far this season. Holtby has an abysmal .822 save percentage through two games, and he was lifted late in the first period against the Calgary Flames when he surrendered three goals on 11 shots on Thursday.
Can Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury play himself into the picture? Maybe his work over the summer with a sports psychologist will pay dividends. He lost his confidence in the playoffs last year to give way to veteran Tomas Vokoun. But with Vokoun out long term with blood-clot issues, there is pressure on Fleury to keep the Penguins on top. He responded in their season opener with a solid 27-save shutout for his 250th career win at home against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. His performance included a penalty shot stop on Devils forward Adam Henrique.
Finally, like Fleury, 41-year-old Martin Brodeur was not invited to the orientation camp. He also didn't start the Devils opener - the first one he sat out in 18 years - after the passing of his 82-year-old father Denis last week. I'm not counting the old warhorse out.
How about you?
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