February 22, 2010
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Team Canada will start Roberto Luongo(notes) of the Vancouver Canucks in goal when it faces Germany in the Olympic hockey qualification round Tuesday, as Yahoo! Sports reported first on Monday and as was later confirmed by Coach Mike Babcock.
Luongo opened the tournament for Canada with 15 saves in an 8-0 shutout of Norway. Martin Brodeur(notes) of the New Jersey Devils started the two subsequent games. He stopped 21 of 23 shots, and four more in the shootout, in Canada's 3-2 victory over Switzerland. But Brodeur struggled against Team USA, making some critical mistakes that led to goals in the Americans' 5-3 upset Sunday night.
Coach Mike Babcock's strategy was to give Luongo an early game to acclimate him to playing on his home ice, in front of rabid fans. The move allowed Canada to come back to him knowing he'd already experienced the fervor in Hockey Place, if not the pressure of an elimination game. The Germany game is another primer, preceding a quarterfinal slugfest with Russia.
UPDATE (6:20 p.m. PST): Luongo met the media with a wide smile at Hockey Place, announcing that Coach Mike Babcock had called him last night to inform him that he would start against Germany.
After that? A surprisingly good night's sleep, despite having the weight of a nation on his back; although Luongo admitted he's nervous. "I think it's a good thing to be nervous. Gets you going a bit. Gives you that extra edge and swagger going into the game," he said.
Coach Mike Babcock said it was a change the coaching staff was comfortable making, and one that Brodeur, who will be the backup against Germany, understood could be coming. He also indicated that the Team Canada goaltending situation was a two-man operation, with Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) never really in the mix to start going forward.
Babcock said that the goaltending position didn't give Team Canada the sort of stability it needed in the U.S. loss. "We're in the winning business, [and] winning a game at any level you need big saves," he said "You need momentum changing saves. And we're looking for Loo to do that for us."
Luongo was eager to accept the challenge. "I think we played well last night. We're confident in the guys we have in the locker room. But there's a fine line between winning and losing, and the littlest details make a difference."