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Goaltending is the big battle at Team Canada’s camp

Aug 26, 2013, 9:59 AM EDT

Carey Price Getty Images

Team Canada has their own orientation camp already underway in Calgary, and the biggest question there has to do with who will start in goal.

Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Corey Crawford, Mike Smith, and Braden Holtby are the five goalies vying for the No. 1 job and the competition is expected to be stiff. Team GM Steve Yzerman says he’s confident things will shake out as Donna Spencer of the Canadian Press shares.

“I think there are some new faces that are very good goaltenders,” he said. “Roberto played on the last team. Corey Crawford is coming to camp. He just finished winning the Stanley Cup.

“Things will work itself out. I’m not going to worry about it here in August.”

There isn’t much point to worrying in August, it’s true. Canada’s camp, like Team USA’s camp, won’t have anyone participating on the ice because of the sky-high cost to insure the players. How those guys start their NHL seasons will do plenty to decide who goes to Sochi and who gets a few weeks off in February.

  1. capsfan19 - Aug 26, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    I would be shocked if holtby got it, but i think its awesome he’s being acknowledge for his talent.

  2. 19to77 - Aug 26, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    It was naive of Yzerman and his team not to invite Cam Ward. Price is less impressive and more clearly average with every passing season and Mike Smith has strung together one great and one decent season under Dave Tippett, whose system can make Ilya freaking Bryzgalov look good. These guys are not Olympic-calibre. Cam Ward could be a perennial Vezina candidate if he weren’t on a sh*tty team with bad D. He’s posted a .915 or better save percentage over the last four years with Carolina’s best impression of an AHL defensive corps in front of him. Put him behind the best defense in the country and he’d be spectacular.

    • buckyblackhawk - Aug 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Carolina fell apart pretty fast after Ward got hurt.

      • 19to77 - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        Without Ward it’s not much of a team. Good top-six (albeit overpaid) but not much else to look to for salvation. As Ward goes, so do the ‘Canes.

    • faulkingallstar - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      even with the s**** D in front of him he still had better numbers than price who was playing with one of the best defensive teams last year which makes no sense to me why he was invited over ward. I think cam will have an outstanding year if he can stay healthy and earn the starting job.

    • mrpinkca - Aug 26, 2013 at 6:52 PM

      I would justify the Ward omission with two points. He missed most of last year, and hasn’t played since around February (I don’t remember exactly when he went down, it might have been March). So it’s tough to say how good he is. The second point is that his value is in him being a workhorse. He’s not going to put up spectacular numbers, but he’s going to play a lot of games and give your team a chance to win most of them. That is far more valuable in an 82 game season than a 6 game tournament.

      Also, he can still make the team, even if he wasn’t invited to camp.

      • 19to77 - Aug 26, 2013 at 8:46 PM

        Fair enough on the first point, but I disagree with the second. Yeah, he’s a workhorse – the ‘Canes play him 65+ games a year barring injuries – but he DOES put up excellent numbers. There are only a handful of goalies in the NHL who could be expected to pitch a .916 or better with Carolina’s godawful defense in front of them. In 2011-12 he pitched a .923 over the course of SEVENTY-FOUR GAMES. Pekka Rinne is seen as a star for doing exactly the same thing with a much better defense in front of him. If that weren’t enough to sell you on his value, he pitched a .920 and won the Cup and Conn Smythe as a rookie, then took them on a surprise conference finals run in 2009.

        I know he flies a bit under the radar in Carolina, but the guy has elite talent and it’s largely squandered on a bad team.

      • 19to77 - Aug 26, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        I decided to compare Ward and Rinne a bit. Ward’s numbers are from 2010-11, Rinne’s numbers are from 2011-12. This isn’t because either experienced a big spike or drop in play, but to show some similarities.

        Rinne – 73 GP, 43-18-8, 2.39 GAA, .923 save percentage
        Ward – 74 GP, 37-26-10, 2.56 GAA, .923 save percentage

        Ward also faced over 200 more shots than Rinne, and still matched him for save percentage. The reason Rinne got a Vezina shortlisting in 2012 and Ward didn’t in 2011 is because Ward didn’t have two Norris-calibre defensemen logging nearly half an hour a night, each. His best defenseman was (and still is, because Rutherford is an awful GM) Tim freaking Gleason – good player, but Weber/Suter he is not.

        Is he the best goalie in the NHL? No. But compared to Luongo, Price, Smith, Crawford and Holtby, he’s probably the best goalie in Canada.

  3. blomfeld - Aug 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    1) Carey Price

    2) Corey Crawford

    3) Braden Holtby

    1,2,3 … simple as that ! :)

    ————————————

    Here’s my rational …

    1) Roberto Luongo

    People need to remember that Sochi is a long way off and in the meantime Luongo will have the ‘devil to pay’ here in Vancouver. The new Pacific Division is by far the most ‘powerful and dynamic’ division in the entire league and everyone knows that. So with the lone exception of Calgary, every single team is this ‘juggernaut’ of a division will be looking to ‘put the boots’ to the Canucks on a nightly basis, including of course our ‘glorious’ LA Kings. And ‘put the boots’ to them they shall ! The end result will be that by Christmas time, Luongo could easily have another ‘emotional’ breakdown due to the ever-mounting losses, sky-rocketing GAA, media criticism, fan anger & backlash, etc ? And if that happens, then there’s absolutely no way that Hockey Canada will chance taking him along to the Caucuses … no way.

    2) Mike Smith

    Despite being a compulsive liar, Mike Smith is nonetheless one of the best Canadian goalies in the game today. However the pressure of playing in a ‘Lehman Brothers’ styled environment there in Phoenix, will not permit him to focus on playing for Canada. As everyone knows, the entire effort there in the desert is like some ‘house of cards’ which could collapse at the drop of a hat. The dubious new ownership, various lending banks, debt collectors, credit agencies, unpaid suppliers … all of them will be watching he and his teammate’s ‘every’ move, all the while looking to pounce at the first sign of a slip up ! And that needless to say, is not conducive to someone trying to prepare for an international tournament.

    *** Conclusion: Canada’s three goalies for Sochi will be Price, Crawford & Holtby ***

    • ejbigg - Aug 26, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      I honestly can’t even tell if this is a ‘serious’ post or not.

      The financial stability of the Coyotes will have little to no effect on how the team performs. In fact, they are more stable now then ever before because they know they will be there for at least five years. If Mike Smith could perform under the pressure of the past two seasons, then no doubt he can handle it now. Plenty of Coyotes will be playing in the Olympics for various countries. Though I don’t think he will make it, Yzerman is going to choose the best players for the team, bottom line.

      Luongo has probably the best shot right now at making the team. He’s a world class goalie regardless of the drama he’s been involved in.

      Price, while a good goalie, has not been able to deal with the pressure in Montreal, what makes you think he would be able to in the Olympics? He’d be a decent #2 option, but he’d need an insanely good year to be the starter.

      Crawford is risky, it’s hard to judge his numbers since he played on the best team in the NHL last year and he’s inconsistent. If he has another good year then he may be an option for the #1.

      Holtby is just here to get a look for the future, he likely won’t make the team.

      • ejbigg - Aug 26, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        I guess to summarize, I would say:
        1. Luongo
        2. Crawford
        3. Price
        These are the three guys, although the final order will obviously depend on their performance in the upcoming season up until the Olympics.

      • 19to77 - Aug 26, 2013 at 9:16 PM

        I don’t know about Holtby. I can see him actually making the team as third string. He’s been surprisingly consistent over his NHL career so far and he’s faced high-pressure situations. The Caps’ last two playoff exits can’t be laid at his feet – if anything, he’s the reason they had the chance at all. Still, best-case for me is some combination of Luongo, Crawford and Ward. Two thoroughly proven veterans and Crawford’s a safe bet considering the world-class defense they’ll have in front of them.

        Smith’s recent successes are far too likely a result of playing under Tippett. The guy can make Ilya Bryzgalov look good – roughly on par with turning water into wine. Price, well… yeah, he’s just not as good as people want to think he is. Barring a stellar performance early, he’s not convincing me he’s an elite netminder.

  4. thailer35 - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    What does Mike Smith being a “compulsive liar”* have to do with his ability to perform at the Olympic level?

    *-Notice the correct use of quotation marks.

    • blomfeld - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      Trailer – I take it then that you’re not familiar with the ‘ideals’ of Olympic competition ? … is that the deal ? So let me explain. The bottom line for every country, even if it’s only for optics, is to field a team which ‘aspires’ to the Olympic spirit of fair play, integrity and decency. That by itself obviously precludes the likes of a Mike Smith from ever being on Canada’s team.

      Nonetheless, that wasn’t even the point I was making. If you took the time to actually ‘read’ my analysis, then you’d have noted that it’s the ‘mental pressure’ of playing in a financial ‘house cards’ like Phoenix which is preventing Smith from ever being seriously considered … “dubious new ownership, various lending banks, debt collectors, credit agencies, unpaid suppliers … all of them will be watching he and his teammate’s ‘every’ move and looking to pounce at the first sign of a slip up”. If you can’t get your head around something as straight forward as that, then I’ve nothing further to say other than God speed and take care.

      • greenmtnboy31 - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:55 PM

        Actually, “the bottom” line is to win. Perpahs the Olympic ideal is to win fairly with integrity and decency, but make not mistake; the bottom line is to win the gold.

        If you can’t wrap your head around something as straight forward as that, then you are helpless.

        As for the goalies, and as a Montreal Canadiens fan, I can’t believe Carey Price is on this list. It is does not bode well for Team Canada, but as an American, I like it.

        If I were picking goalie candidates; Brodeur, Ward, Crawford, Luongo, Theodore before Price.

      • mrpinkca - Aug 26, 2013 at 6:57 PM

        The Olympics are a multi-billion dollar industry. The bottom line is net profit.

      • blomfeld - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:05 AM

        friend … kindly ‘stand down’ and return to your green mountain … and may God bless you …

  5. 19to77 - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    I just can’t see Mike Smith making it. Two years ago he was backup to 42-year old Roloson’s career-worst season performance. He was excellent in 2011-12 and merely decent in 2012-13. The resume isn’t consistent enough. I’d sooner take Holtby. Small sample size, admittedly, but the guy looks almost unfazeable on the ice. His level of focus and calm is very high and that’s a huge asset for playing in major tournaments.

  6. davemeisner - Aug 26, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    This is clearly the weak spot with team Canada. Hopefully 1 or 2 of these guys get hot during the season before the Olympics start, because right now the best Canadian goalie isn’t even on the list (Ward). But if you had to pick now, I think it would be Crawford, Luongo and Mike Smith.

    Crawford is the best right now out of the 5. Luongo has won a gold medal before and has the potential to do it again. Mike Smith has the ability to get hot, really fast.

    But I hope this tournament doesn’t come down to goaltending, but I’m afraid it will.

    • imleftcoast - Aug 26, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      Agreed and agreed. When has a team’s financial situation had an effect on a goalie’s play? Luongo is probably under some strain that might affect his play, but his play in 2010 seems like a more reliable measure and I don’t expect Mike Smith’s play in February will have anything to do with the Glendale vote. Someone call Nate Silver.

    • rickchablis - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Absolutely right, Dave

  7. themagicman1223 - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Price will be the starter IMO, people here are quick to look at stats and probably haven’t watched him play alot. The Habs D was in shambles apart from Subban and Emelin, Markov wasn’t very good at ES defensively but he was terrific on the PP, I don’t blame Markov though. Therrien was an idiot and kept playing him 25 minutes per game when it’s clear he can’t handle it at his age. He also did a terrible job with Subban, Subban barely played on the PK when in 2011-12 we had one of the best in the league and he was a mainstay on it. Also playing Bouillon as much as he did was a stupid decision, he didn’t have a great year and struggled defensively with his position and clearing the crease. Gorges had a down year and wasn’t in his past form, I’ll leave it at that.

  8. rickchablis - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Doesn’t matter which one you choose – this will be Canada’s weak spot. None of these choices measure up with the options the other main countries have. The only hope is to dominate with forwards, defense, and coaching. The U.S. has the best selection of netminders. But Hab fans need to tap the brake on pushing Price.

    • themagicman1223 - Aug 26, 2013 at 4:33 PM

      Where did I say it wasn’t their weak spot? Also one bad year doesn’t make a goalie ”suck” especially when that year was a shortened year. Did I mention he was also playing through an injury in his slump?

  9. mrpinkca - Aug 26, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    I’d probably go:
    Loungo
    Price
    Holtby

    I’m taking Holtby over Crawford because I think he has better track record and has been playing behind a worse team (especially defensively). But it’s a slight edge that I could see changing with another strong season from Crawford.

  10. capsrockva - Aug 26, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    I love the fact that Holby was invited to try out as a caps fan, it would kill me if he saved a potential gold winning goal against the US and I think he probably would not be on 1067 the fan, (a radio station here in the dc market, which he did appear on Levar&Duke’s show multiple times last season) I hate the fact that the head coach of Pit is coaching team USA, but that’s another story for anther time.

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