If you’ve even had a glance at highlights of Men’s Olympic Hockey, you’ve probably developed an opinion on how the tournament has gone so far.
Some of you were likely concerned – whether it was a tough first period against Norway, a scare against Switzerland where it took a shootout to win, and then a near complete FAIL in losing to the US. In fact, you probably felt that a Hockey Congress needed to be convened to figure out what ailed the sport in Canada.
Then there were others that pointed out that Team Canada is like fine wine, that it gets better with age and simply needed time to breath. You preached faith and devotion, knowing that at some point in time Canada would open up a can of whoop-what-what and take a few names.
And then there is me – the guy who thinks it comes down to Grant Fuhr, goaltending, and whether or not we could get that “one” save.
For those of you not old enough to remember the halcyon days of the 1980s Edmonton Oilers, they were a young team that had quite a bit of firepower in an age where the team that actually scored the most goals won – key word, goals. Although Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Anderson and others put up the points, there were a number of other teams in the league who had players that could do the same thing. So what was it that gave the Oil success? Goaltending.
Now we’re not talking about the goaltending we’re used to today. We’re talking about the flop around, pad stacker, red-light variety. So how does this come into play? Well, the Oilers had a guy by the name of Grant Fuhr who could make that one “great” save which allowed the team in front of him to maintain pressure and momentum. True the final score might be 6-5 or 5-3, but by making that one “great” save, he gave his team a chance to win.
So how does this have anything to do with Team Canada you ask?
If there were one consistent issue for debate, it’s been the position between the pipes. The rightly celebrated Martin Brodeur was anointed the number one keeper by the start of the tournament and relieved Roberto Luongo of his duties after the first game against Norway. But things didn’t go too smoothly for Marty. First there was some suspect goaltending in regulation against Switzerland where he couldn’t provide that “great” save until the shootout – where he stopped all three to redeem himself. And then there was that shocker against the US where he had trouble determining that baseball is not a demonstration sport in the 2010 Winter Games and again, couldn’t provide that “great” save when called upon. So after some deliberation, the decision was made to have Louie head back to the blue paint.
And the team took off.
Now I agree that a win against Germany isn’t something we should run to the streets to cheer about, but what about that slobberknocker against Russia? Here you had a Canadian team taking it to the opposition without having to expend even more energy playing catch-up because they had a guy who could provide that one “great” save. Roberto wasn’t perfect in either game, but he gave the team some belief that when it counted, he’d come up big. Case in point was the Malkin breakaway – Louie made that one “great” save.
It’s obviously Louie’s time to shine for the remainder of the Olympic Games and how he goes, the team will go. But if anything has been discovered is that with the firepower that Canada possesses, all the team will need is someone who practices the Grant Fuhr method to Goaltending.
And provide that one extra save, one “great” save.