Hockey Canada Starting Goalie: Carey Price vs. Roberto Luongo

With Olympic hockey beginning for Canada on February 13th against Norway, talk about who will be Team Canada’s starter has heated up. Mike Babcock has gone on record about what his plans are for the first three games of the tournament. He said that two goalies would split the first two games; but more importantly, he said that the goaltender who starts the third game will likely start the remainder of the tournament. What is deduced from this statement? Well, the easy answer is nothing at all. That being said, there is significant reason to believe that Luongo will enter the tournament as the de-facto starting goaltender for Canada.

The fact that he was in net when Canada won the Gold medal in Vancouver 2010 will guarantee Luongo will get every opportunity to prove he can carry the load. That advantage is seen as tenuous at best, however. Luongo was quite shaky in the final game against the United States, yet managed to play just well enough not to fail. In addition, 2010 was then, 2014 is now. Luongo had a 2.11 GAA and a .928 save percentage for the 2010-2011 season. In comparison, Carey Price had a 2.35 GAA and a .923 save percentage in 2010-11. Price was not chosen to represent Canada in that tournament, despite being the best Montreal Canadien playing behind a much weaker d-core than the Canucks. This season things are quite different.

Luongo was injured on two separate occasions this year and has a 2.32 GAA and a .919 save percentage this season; Carey Price has nearly identical stats to what he had in 2010-2011 with a GAA of 2.37 and a save percentage of .923. That being said, Carey Price’s play has gone beyond the numbers. He has been the Habs best player all season long, even when his team was playing extremely sloppily in front of him. In fact, between December 19th and January 25th the Canadiens conceded 48 goals against on 406 shots on net when Carey Price was in goal. Statistically speaking that means Price had a .845 save percentage and a 3.42 GAA during that stretch. At first glance one would blurt out, “that’s terrible goaltending!” However, during that major slump, Price was making big save, after big save. No one can vouch for this fact more than Mike Babcock who saw Price nearly single-handily prevent the Habs from annihilation against the Red Wings in a 4-1 loss in Detroit. Here is one of the miraculous saves Price made in that 4-1 loss: “Price robs Brendan Smith from the slot.”

If the 2013-2014 season ended today, the three goaltenders likely nominated for the Vezina would be Ben Bishop of the Lightning, Carey Price, and one of Rask or Varlamov.

If the Habs and Lightning do make the playoffs, you can rest assured that Price and Bishop will garner consideration for the Hart Trophy as well.

Would you rather a potential Vezina and MVP candidate playing between the pipes for Canada or a goaltender who has consistently proven he has a difficult time on the big stage? Will Canada make the politically correct choice and go with Luongo or will they go with the correct choice?

Who would you start for Canada?

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