Brodeur won't dwell on Olympic starting job
|Brodeur was one of five goalies at Team Canada's summer camp in Calgary.|
Though the two could square off Wednesday when the Devils host the Canucks, Brodeur is content to ignore the Olympic subtext.
“The matchup is, I’m going to play against the top goalie,” Brodeur said after Monday’s practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion. “That’s the matchup that I’m looking at, not really what the selection will be or who wins that game should be.”
Detroit Red Wings general manager and Team Canada executive Ken Holland was quoted recently as saying that the goaltenders’ bodies of work would be weighed more than their play in this season alone.
Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and four-time recipient of the Vezina Trophy, holds the edge in both.
A three-time Olympian who led Canada to gold in 2002, Brodeur has gotten off to the best start of any of the five netminders invited to Team Canada's orientation camp this past summer: Luongo, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Columbus’ Steve Mason and Carolina’s Cam Ward.
After setting a new NHL record for wins last year (552), the 37-year-old has gone 15-6-1 with a glittering 2.05 goals-against average behind a banged-up Devils squad that has yet to field its full lineup for any game this season.
Luongo, 30, missed six games this season with fractured ribs before returning to action on Nov. 10. He allowed seven goals this past weekend, as the Canucks followed up Saturday's 7-3 win over Edmonton with a 4-2 loss to San Jose on Sunday. The hometown favorite for Vancouver’s first Olympics, Luongo went 1-1 in two appearances for Canada at the 2006 Torino Games.
“I’ve been around so long that I understand how it works a bit,” Brodeur said. “But it’s a big challenge. Roberto’s a great goalie. He’s been playing well against me, too. The last time we played against Vancouver that I played, he played really well (5-0 loss at Vancouver, Dec. 18, 2007). So it’s a challenge for that. I know people will talk about it, especially more in Canada than here, but it’s one game and by Thursday no one will talk about it.”
Knowing that Team Canada’s starting spot might be up for grabs hasn’t provided any added motivation for Brodeur, who sets his own expectations high each season – not just every four years.
“I just have to do what I do,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘This year, I need to do this more because of the Olympics.’ If I don’t do that every year, there’s a problem with me. That’s the way I see it. For me, I do what I do. I go out there and play my heart out all the time and try to be the best goalie I can, then look at little things in my game to try to improve. Like a player, like a team, you try to be getting better and better as the year comes to get yourself into the playoffs.”
The Vancouver Games, which begin on Feb. 12, will add a different wrinkle to Brodeur’s 2009-10.
“For me, now, in the middle of all this, will be the Olympics, so I have to get myself to the point that I’m going to be feeling good and doing well when that comes,” he said. “After that, selection and who’s going to be No. 1, it’s out of my hands. I can just play, that’s it. Everyone’s in different situations. Luongo’s in one situation, you have Fleury that’s in one. We have a team here, we play a different system than maybe Vancouver does. It’s hard to judge your wins, your losses, your save percentage, your goals against. I think it’s just about what they’re going to feel comfortable having in front of the team and the system that they’re going to put together when the time comes.”
Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire will serve as an assistant for Team Canada under head coach Mike Babcock, but believes his voice will be just one of many when the decision on a starter is finally made.
“I don’t know, it’s only my opinion, which they’ll look at,” Lemaire said. “They get about 10 opinions.”
Lemaire and Brodeur were together on the Devils’ first Stanley Cup championship in 1995. Don’t count on Lemaire being biased for Brodeur.
“Usually, I try not to be,” he said. “The thing is, you have to play the best goalie. It’s like what I do here. You have to play the best guy, the best players you think will bring you a win.”
So, who is the best goalie for Team Canada?
“I don’t know yet,” Lemaire said. “And you won’t know (until I) do.”