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Let the Luongo-or-Price debate begin

Feb 9, 2014, 4:34 AM EST

Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, AP

Team Canada’s coaching staff will hold a press conference Monday in Sochi, where surely one of the first questions Mike Babcock gets will pertain to his goaltending plans. Will he go with Roberto Luongo, the man who stepped in for Martin Brodeur and back-stopped Canada to Winter Olympics gold in 2010, or will it be Carey Price, who unlike Luongo hasn’t lost his last five NHL starts for a team that’s stuck in its worst slump in years?

With the possible exception of Alex Ovechkin, there may not be a player in today’s game that’s spurred more debate than Luongo. In Vancouver, where he’s been since 2006, he’s been the most talked-about athlete in the city’s history. And in his last five starts for the Canucks — all regulation losses, though certainly not all his fault — the 34-year-old has allowed 17 goals on 142 shots, for an unenviable save percentage of .880.

According to the Vancouver Province, when asked about the state of his game, Luongo paused before replying with, “I don’t know. Obviously, we haven’t won, so it’s tough from that side of things.”

Back in 2010, following Canada’s loss to the United States in the preliminary round, Babcock explained his decision to sit Brodeur and turn to Luongo like this: “We’re in the winning business. To win at in any game at any level you need big saves. You need momentum-changing saves. We’re looking for [Luongo] to do that for us.”

And in the end, Luongo came through. But that was four years ago. Hockey fans don’t need to be told how much water’s gone under Luongo’s bridge in the time since.

In Price, Babcock has a 26-year-old who’s allowed just three goals in his last three games, with a sky-high save percentage of .971. All three were Montreal wins. And remember what business Babcock’s in.

Now, of course, one must consider both goalies’ overall body of work, not just their last few games. It’s not like Price is throwing a perfect game in the NHL. Far from it. And there’s something to be said for his lack of big-game experience, of which Luongo has plenty, even if it hasn’t always gone his way in those games.

The challenge for Babcock will be getting a good handle on his netminders before his team faces a must-win game. Tournament minnows Norway and Austria are Canada’s first two opponents in the preliminary round — and Luongo and Price may split those games — before a slightly tougher test against injury-ravaged Finland. After that, it’s likely a spot in the win-or-go-home quarterfinals.

Let the Great Canadian Debate begin.

  1. joey4id - Feb 9, 2014 at 5:53 AM

    Ah! The one and major unknown for Canada is indeed who will be between the pipes, and how will he perform. Babcock said on a radio talk show that he expects to audition both goalies at the outset and then decide who the go to goalie will be. He said he didn’t expect to go back and forth between the goalies once the decision is made because of the short tournament. On the plus side the d and team in front of the goalie are all elite players which will make Price’s and Luongo’s game much different than when with their respective teams.

    • valoisvipers - Feb 10, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      I would go with Smith if it were up to me but you are right about having a great team in front of the goalie would help hide our sub par goal tending situation.

      • joey4id - Feb 10, 2014 at 10:01 AM

        I don’t think I’ll be able to watch any of the games, but, I will be following the tourni online. I’m looking forward to your write assessments of each Canadian game to stay abreast of their progress. ;-) Enjoy!

  2. pastabelly - Feb 9, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    It’s not Luongo’s fault that the Canucks suck. There really isn’t much separating these two, good but not great goalies.

  3. cjnbsc - Feb 9, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    Price. Without question.

  4. tlndma - Feb 9, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    If Asst. Coach Julien has any say, it’ll be Price.

  5. kingsofhockey - Feb 9, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    Bernièr

  6. patshal - Feb 9, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    I would go with Price. Luongo is terrible in big games. He has proven that over the last few years. Remember the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. He was mouthing off about how bad Thomas was and he couldn’t make a save for his life. Go with Price. And go USA!!!!

    • scottybcboy - Feb 9, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      I wouldn’t say that Luongo is terrible in big games. He did win the gold medal game in 2010 and had two shutouts in the 2011 SCF.

  7. phxyotes - Feb 9, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Not even one mention of Smith, it’s like he’s not even going. Smith has been on fire as of late and playing some of his best hockey since the yotes playoff run 2 years ago. I think you go with the 2 guys that have been playing very well the last 2 weeks and that’s Price and Smith. Luongo and his team have been a complete trainwreck.

    • elvispocomo - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      To be honest this hasn’t been the best year for Smith. Hot right now or not, they have to consider past experience and a larger body of work. I think it’s still a 1a/1b/3 situation for Smith and it’ll be unlikely he gets a chance.

  8. canucks30 - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Mike Smith

  9. csilojohnson - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    MAF

  10. matt14gg - Feb 9, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Two goalies (Luongo and Price) going on reputation. If you actually want the guy playing the best right now it’s Smith. If I know Canada tho, they will worry more about “how it looks” than “how they do”, so they will prob go with Lou.

    • bsaures - Feb 9, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      Actualy it would be price who is playing the best lately 2 SO and only 7 GA in his last 6 games

  11. vipod4ever - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Price is ready foe this stage. However, believed they missed the boat on bringing in Fleury as a third. The guys a yo-yo, but has been in so many big games and when he’s hot nothing goes in.

  12. tdrusher225 - Feb 9, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Both are very talented, but I wouldn’t feel very comfortable with either of them in a big game. They’ll probably split time in the first few games go with the better guy into the medal round.

  13. gbatap - Feb 9, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    I’m sure it will be obivious who will be the guy after they split the games between Austria and Norway. Oh wait….

  14. greenmtnboy31 - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Price is right. Smith may be hot, but Price is on fire; playing the best of the three right now. You have to go with the hot hand and it’s not question Price is the guy.

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