Congratulations to Martin Brodeur on matching Terry Sawchuk’s mark of 103 career shutouts last night. Brodeur achieved the recognition of being the league’s most winningest goaltender last season with 552, but this is even more impressive, because as great as passing Patrick Roy’s record was, the shutout record really is an individual accomplishment like no other. New Jersey has always been seen as a defensive team, but really that is just a credit to what Brodeur has done. He has become the team’s identity after almost 20 years with the organisation, and after missing most of last season, he is now back playing regularly and in great form. So can Brodeur carry the hopes of millions of Canadians when the Olympics come round in February? Vancouver 2010 is still a good two months away, but with rosters being finalized at the end of this month players on the brink will be looking to impressive at the right time.
In a recent NHL.com poll Brodeur was consistently voted for above Luongo for Canada’s starting role. Despite fluctuations 50% for Brodeur to 30% for Luongo seemed like the consistent result, with the remaining option being to give it more time. Though with most teams on or approaching the 30 game mark, performance throughout this season so far should be a good indicator for things to come. Here are the contenders:
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Following Monday night’s shutout of Buffalo Brodeur now leads the league with 18 wins, passing Marc-Andre Fleury who remains on 17, and these two could remain 1 and 2 in that category all season as New Jersey and Pittsburgh seperate themselves from the rest of the Atlantic Division. Brodeur’s stats are impressive through the 26 games he has played and fantasy owners will certainly be content with his current 2.11GAA, which ranks for fourth in the league behind Ryan Miller, Tuukka Rask, and Ilya Bryzgalov. Brodeur would likely have been closer to this elite company without the five he let in against Vancouver, but his record has been solid overall and he is generally not allowing many soft ones get by. So far he has been the most impressive Canadian in net.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
After a really rough ride in the first month of the season with save percentages .667 against Columbus and .737 against Calgary and a 2.37GAA overall, Luongo generally had a much better November with a 2.13GAA overall- this being after Luongo had missed time from a rib injury. Over his best stretch of the season Luongo had six straight without letting in two or more goals, and with the recent 38 save shutout on the Flyers he appears to be back to the form where he can win games on his own, and fantasy owners will be hoping that something similiar to his 3 straight shutouts and 9 overall last season still lies ahead. Considering the little support his offensive-minded defense gives him, Luongo has been impressive and even if his 2.41GAA isn’t the greatest, it’s still pretty solid and you just feel that his best is still yet to come. Luongo and Vancouver are still outside of the eight spots, and will need to get some consistency with 8 straight at home still to come this month.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Fleury won his first eight of the season as Pittsburgh dominated the East, and were unbeaten on the road for their first seven. Inevitably after one of the best starts in team history for Pittsburgh, the cool-off period began and Fleury’s numbers suffered. Fleury is a big-game kind of goaltender rather than one who leads the stat categories, but you’d still think he’d be closer to the rest as an elite goaltender. Especially with his current save percentage of .905 only being ranked 30th, Fleury has been a bit questionable at times considering that generally Pittsburgh doesn’t allow too many shots on him. He likes to handle the puck but doesn’t assure confidence in this area, and has let in a few as a result, including one against Washington in the playoffs last year. No doubt though Fleury has the ability to make a highlight-reel save, and even if this is sometimes a result of bad positioning, Fleury is probably the most athletic goaltender in the league and is one of the best at moving laterally making it pretty hard to beat him down low. He currently has 17 wins, a 2.45GAA but is still looking for his first shutout.
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes
Cam Ward is likely to return to action on Wednesday but no doubt his injury has hurt his team and probably his chance of being Canada’s number 1. Though when Ward was in net for the first part of this season he struggled, ending up with a 2.97GAA and .899 save percentage before getting cut by Rick Nash’s skate. Even if Ward hadn’t have suffered the injury and played well it is questionable if he would have been chosen for Canada, so he will need to be close to incredible to have any chance to play for Canada, in what many see is only a choice between Brodeur and Luongo.
Canada announces it’s roster on December 30th.