Luongo will start for Canada
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
Canada's Roberto Luongo listens to head coach Mike Babcock during practice in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday, Feb. 22, 2010. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)
VANCOUVER — It is his dressing room, his rink and now, his net.
Roberto Luongo will get the start for Canada Tuesday in their sudden-death elimination game against Germany and from here on, signalling what might well be the passing of the Olympic goaltending torch.
Canadian coach Mike Babock made the decision go with Luongo over 37-year-old Martin Brodeur, who had an uneven performance in a 5-3 loss to the USA Sunday in what is likely his last Olympic Games.
“We’re in the winning business,” said Babcock. “To win at any level, you need big saves, momentum-changing saves. We’re looking for Lou to do that for us.”
Babcock said the Team Canada braintrust had come into the tournament open to the idea of making a goaltending switch. You know it’s a decision they wished they hadn’t had to make, but there is no room now for loyalty, for second chances, no time.
“We felt we needed a change and now we’re making it,” he said.
So now Luongo gets to play in his home rink in front of the fans who cheer for him as a Vancouver Canuck and will cheer even more loudly as a member of Team Canada.
“My excitement level is really high right now,” said Luongo. “Possibly the highest it’s ever been.
“I’ve got a lot of experience at the international level. I know what to expect. I know it won’t be easy. The Germans are a good team and they could surprise us. I’m going to put my best game on the ice and, as a team, we’re going to execute.”
The Canadians looked at the goaltending performance of USA’s Ryan Miller Sunday, his butterfly covering much of the net and stopping shots through traffic. Luongo is a big body with a similar style and, like Babcock said, “things hit you.”
Babcock said he didn’t think Brodeur “was shocked,” upon hearing of the change.
“He’s a pro, he’s been through it. He’s won championships. He understands it’s about the team and not the individual and that’s the case now,” said the coach.
Babcock shuffled wingers with centre Sidney Crosby again, putting Eric Staal on the left and Jarome Iginla on the right.
Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman said his team is not feeling overwhelmed or shocked to be in this position.
“You just can’t go out expecting to go undefeated and win the gold medal in every tournament,” he said. “The country has to understand you’re going to face adversity. We’re not sitting here in total shock saying, ‘how could we be in this situation?’
“The only thing that’s happened is the puck hasn’t gone in the net the last two games. These are good people who want to do well and they want to make Canada proud. They’re trying hard.”