Canada has great confidence in goalie
By TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN
Team Canada forward, Ryan Smith gives goalie Martin Brodeur a pat on the head during practice here at the ACC. (SUN/MARK O'NEILL)
TORONTO -- You can feel the confidence level, not just with Team Canada but with all of Canada. There's every expectation, from one end of the bench to the other, that Martin Brodeur is going to hold the fort.
From coast-to-coast there's the belief that he'll be so solid in the Canadian crease that he'll deliver Canada from any danger.
While Brodeur gassed a goal late, that kind of confidence went a long way to Canada completing the North American pool with a third straight win - 3-1 over Russia - to finish first and await a quarter-final opponent, which will be determined by the result of tonight's Russia-Slovakia game here.
Brodeur says he can feel the confidence of the club if not the country.
"From Day 1, I kinda knew I've had that,'' he said.
"It makes your job easier when you know you're not being questioned. One of the reasons I've had success in New Jersey is that there is a lot of confidence in me.''
But he said whoa ...
"We've got one more game to win before we talk about that.''
The elimination games are next and the next one, even though it will be against the last-place team in the North American pool, is very scary.
But it is Brodeur and the way he's playing that makes the prospect of losing to a lesser team and being bounced from the World Cup of Hockey next Wednesday night somewhat less frightening.
"He gives you almost an unfair advantage,'' marvelled Halkirk's Shane Doan after this one was over.
"He plays so well. He's such a dominant goalie. He's so quick and he always keeps the puck in front of him. It's so hard to score on him.''
Vinnie Lecavalier was named Canada's player of the game but suggested they got it wrong.
"Martin did it in the first two games and he did it again tonight,'' he said.
Coach Pat Quinn says what Brodeur is giving this team makes it so much easier for them to play the game in front of him.
"They know they're backed up. They're not afraid to do things. Great goaltending gives you a freedom.
"He might now be the best in the world.''
He's being the best in the World Cup of Hockey.
The Russians took the game to Canada early, taking the body as they did so. But Brodeur kept it 0-0 until a pair of early second-period turnovers created two-on-one situations. Sergei Gonchar coughed one up at the blue-line that Brad Richards turned into a 1-0 lead three minutes in. Less than two minutes later Kris Draper trailed another two-on-one situation and deposited the rebound. But it was Brodeur who killed the Russian spirit when he absolutely stoned Alexander Frolov in alone.
Frolov was so stunned that he didn't score he looked up at the roof then raised his stick over his head with both hands and brought it down to whack the ice as if to put an exclamation mark on it.
While Joe Sakic and Sergei Gonchar traded goals in the third period, that was the game.
"He made the big save right there. That could have been the difference,'' said New Jersey team-mate Scott Niedermayer.
Brodeur said the Gonchar goal was brutal.
"I got a little overconfident in my game. I've been seeing the puck as big as a beach ball and that one was big,'' he said. "Fortunately it didn't affect the game.''
He may have looked as cool as a cucumber but Brodeur said he wasn't.
"I'd never played against an all-Russian team before. I was a little nervous about it. It was special. It was Canada-Russia.''
The game had a heaping helping of hype, thanks to a surprise Russian performance in their opener against the U.S.A. and the fact it's been so long Russia-Canada played a game in Toronto.
Thirty-two years ago, to the day, Canada scored a 4-1 win over the Soviet Union, the only win on Canadian ice in the '72 summit series, a game his father photographed. There hadn't been a September series game here since 1976 but there was no comparison when it came to the atmosphere, the environment and the scene which greeted Team Canada five days earlier in Montreal.
There was no comparison with the scene which fuelled Wayne Gretzky's gang against the Americans in the opener and Brodeur admitted he was struck by that.
"I was a little bit surprised,'' he said of the lack of atmosphere. "I really expected a little more. Maybe they wanted to wait and see. Maybe it was our fault a little bit. The excitement got going when we scored in the second period. After that the atmosphere was awesome.''
Well, awesome might be a little strong.
But not if you're talking about Brodeur. And after this one players were lining up to talk about the custodian of the Canadian cage, led by his New Jersey teammate.
"He's playing real well,'' said Niedermayer. "I'm pretty lucky to play with him. We've been together 11 years and he's done that a lot. He's a great goalie.''