Vote: Which Olympic goalie will be No. 1 for Team Canada?
Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Mike Smith all representing Canadians
Roberto Luongo and Carey Price just faced each other in NHL action Thursday night — a 5-2 Montreal win — but the real competition between the goaltenders is just beginning.
They are among the three players battling for the right to patrol Team Canada's crease at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games — along with Mike Smith — but we still don't know who will get the nod when Canada opens the Olympic tournament on Feb. 13 vs. Norway.
Head coach Mike Babcock hasn't announced who his No. 1 netminder will be.
While getting the first start is no guarantee of continued status as the No. 1 guy, the competition between Price and Luongo seems tight.
Who do you think head coach Mike Babcock and his staff will give the starting reigns to?
But before you make your decision, here are a few things to keep in mind about each goalie:
Carey Price (26-17-5, 2.33 G.A.A., .925 Sv%)
The good: The Montreal Canadiens goaltender can remain calm under pressure and is well accustomed to a heavy workload in Montreal. The 26-year-old has faced the second-most shots in the NHL this season (1,459) and has made the second-most saves (1,350). The Anahim Lake, B.C., native has the fifth-most wins among goalies (26) and has been on a mini-tear of late, recording two shutouts in his past six contests and a sparkling 1.16 G.A.A. in that span.
The bad: Unfortunately for Price, this mini-tear was preceded by a streak of futility. The former first-round pick (fifth overall in 2005) has suffered through inconsistencies this season, giving up 17 goals over a four-game losing streak prior to the hot stretch. Despite a stellar junior career (including winning MVP en route to Canada's 2007 world junior gold), Price is largely untested on the international stage and is making his first Olympic appearance.
If you believe in going with the hot hand, he may be the best bet.
Roberto Luongo (19-6-6, 2.38 G.A.A., .917 Sv%)
The good: The Vancouver Canucks goalie's international resume is much more decorated than his fellow netminders. He was in net for Canada during its 2010 gold-medal win over the U.S. (34 saves in an OT triumph). The experience could prove valuable in Sochi. The 34-year-old Montreal product also helped guide Canada (largely as Martin Brodeur's backup, but earned a semifinal win) to the 2004 World Cup title.
The bad: Can Luongo win in high-pressure situations on the road? Canucks fans may remember his solid home play in the 2011 Stanley Cup final against Boston while in Vancouver (two shutouts), but he was lambasted at the TD Garden (gave up eight goals in one game, and was pulled the following contest). Fans may also remember Luongo's gold-medal win was on home ice, in Vancouver.
He has yet to prove he can win in crucial games in hostile territory, and he's also on a personal five-game losing streak with an .875 save percentage during that stretch.
If you believe in going with veteran experience, Luongo might be your choice.
Mike Smith (20-17-9, 2.77 G.A.A, .913 Sv %)
The good: The Phoenix Coyotes netminder is one of the best puck handlers in the NHL. While it's easy to overlook, this skill could prove to be handy on an international ice surface where no trapezoids — and no restrictions on goalies playing the puck — limit the goalie's mobility outside the crease.
The bad: The 31-year-old ranks outside the top 30 in both save percentage (41st at .913) and GAA (46th at 2.77) this year, and is 16th in wins. The goalie from Kingston, Ont., is untested at the international level and largely unproven at the NHL level, with this being only his third season as a starting NHL goalie.
If you like betting on the wild-card, Smith could be the guy.
So who is it going to be? Discuss why you made your choice in the comments section below.