All season long, it seemed like the three names that will play net for Team Canada at this month’s Olympics were never in doubt. Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury have been the consensus picks, generally in that order, for the job of backstopping the gold medal favourites. It’s ironic, then, that on the verge of the Olympics there are question marks surrounding all three.
Martin Brodeur is the expected starter, based on his extensive resume. Brodeur owns virtually every single longevity mark for NHL goaltenders, has his name on three Stanley cups, four Vezina trophies, and previously won Olympic gold in 2002. He is regarded by many as the epitome of a big game goaltender. That said, his numbers have been not only the worst of the three players selected, but they’ve been downright bad. Over his last 10 games, Brodeur has a 3-5-2 record with a .876 SV%, and while his save percentage on the season is still a very respectable .915, it is only .903 since January 1.
Marc-Andre Fleury has actually improved his numbers in the new year, although he’s been challenged by journeyman backup Brent Johnson, and his season save percentage is still a very pedestrian .908. Over the last 10, Fleury has gone 5-2-3 with a .911 SV%, and since January 1 owns a .909 SV%. His appearance in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals had some suggesting he should supplant Roberto Luongo (who we will consider presently) as Brodeur’s backup, but I think he’s firmly locked in the number three position.
If there is a challenger to Brodeur, it’s Roberto Luongo, who was pulled last night after allowing five goals against Minnesota. Despite that loss, Luongo’s numbers over his last 10 games are actually superior to those of Brodeur or Fleury – he has a 6-3 record (backup Andrew Raycroft finished a game Luongo started against Toronto and got credit for the win) along with a .916 SV%, and his .920 SV% since January 1 is better than either of his rivals. On the season, Luongo’s .919 SV% is quite good and a little bit ahead of Brodeur.
Despite Brodeur’s recent struggles, it would be a major shock if Mike Babcock significantly altered the expected goaltender hierarchy. Brodeur’s background almost guarantees him the starting job unless he struggles early in the tournament, with Luongo perhaps getting one game. That’s as it should be, although things could change in a hurry if Brodeur’s struggles carry over to the Olympics.