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Author: Kevin Woodley

Canadian goalie Luongo thriving on Olympic experience

Just in case the permanent grin plastered across his face didn’t say it already, inGoal Magazine asked Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo Thursday if this really was the most fun he’s ever had between the pipes. “For sure, I’m having a blast,” he replied with a wider smile. “It’s kind of sad to think there’s only two games left. They’re going to be two great games and I’m just going to enjoy them as much as I can.” From the very real twinkle in his eye to the noticeable excitement in his voice, it’s been clear Luongo is relishing an opportunity he’s waited his whole career for, a chance to finally step out of the long shadow of Martin Brodeur after the living legend stumbled against the U.S. last Sunday. Luongo has been careful to say there will be plenty more chances to win championships and insists his career won’t be defined by this. But with a salary-capped NHL, he also knows there may never be a better chance, a better supporting cast to help shake a reputation – fair or not – for not winning the big games. The best news for a nation counting on him to do just that may be the way Luongo is embracing this pressure-packed opportunity. “I’m trying to stay indoors as much as I can because the couple of times I have been...

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Quiet goalie Miller calming young American Olympians

The big headlines went, appropriately, to Swiss standout Jonas Hiller on Wednesday. Which is fine by his American counterpart Ryan Miller, who has quietly – literally and figuratively – backstopped the United States into medal contention in Vancouver. As easy as it could be to overlook Miller’s 19 saves on an afternoon when Hiller stopped 42 – including several in spectacular fashion – don’t discount some of the tough early stops Millers was forced to make. Playing behind a U.S. team that looked jittery in its first game as the unquestioned favorites, Miller threw out a blocker on Julien Sprunger’s labeled shot from the slot after a bad turnover just 3:30 in, and made another point blank stop off Raffaele Sannitz less than a minute later, allowing the Americans to finally settle down and into a game they would go on to dominate for prolonged stretches in the other end. “With a goalie like Ryan Miller, just like Hiller, you expect the big saves,” said U.S. coach Ron Wilson. It’s that calming influence U.S. teammates cite first when asked about Miller. “Sometimes I wonder if he even has a heartbeat back there,” said U.S. forward David Backes. “He’s a cool, calm and collected guy. Even after a 42-save performance against Canada (on Sunday) we might have got half a smile out of him. He just went about his business,...

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More goalie notes and anecdotes from Olympics quarterfinals

Nabokov disappointed, but classy As hard as it was to see Evgeni Nabokov on the bench, his eyes welling up as he looked distantly at nothing after getting pulled after giving up six goals on 23 shots, the like-able Russian stopper showed his class after the game. While teammates stormed by the media with their heads down, ignoring their names being called out, Nabokov stopped for a familiar voice and, after a brief pause. came over and spent more than 10 minutes – first a few in English and then a lot more in Russian – explaining a bitterly disappointing loss. “We expected they would come out very hard and they scored three minutes into the game and they keep coming, keep coming,” Nabokov said. “We weren’t able to stop the bleeding. They played a hell of a game.” That game included an intense physical style, especially against Russia’s top offensive players, and a relentless attack off both the rush and cycle, with plenty of those big Canadian forwards driving the net and parking there. “That’s Canadian hockey right there. They stay in front, shoot and they’re there for a rebound,” Nabokov said. “I don’t think they surprised us with the physicality but how hungry they were, that was the reason why they won.” Nabokov said it was tough to stay on the bench, but tipped his hat to...

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Luongo back in goal for Russian showdown with Ovechkin

Roberto Luongo will be back in Canada’s goal against Russia on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Babcock confirmed he was sticking with Luongo shortly after he stopped 21 of 23 shots in Tuesday’s 8-2 win over Germany, and took issue with a question about Luongo’s lack of big-game experience compared to Martin Brodeur. “Didn’t he win a World Cup? Wasn’t he the one that got Canada to the final?” Babcock replied in reference to the 2006 World Cup, in which Luongo replaced an injured Brodeur in the semi-final before giving the net back up for the final victory. “It’s very easy to always say he didn’t do this or he didn’t do that,” continued Babcock. “I think his bank account shows that he is a good goalie. I know every time we play him he puts up this wall and I’m excited he’s playing net for us tomorrow. We’ve got a great big man in net. We’re going to give up some opportunities, that is just the reality of (the Russians) are that good. But he’s a big man and doesn’t let it go under him or through him and if they put it around him, we’ll line up for a faceoff and get on with it.” The “under” and “through” references were to Brodeur, who struggled in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the United States. Babcock pointed out after making...

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InGoal analysis: did Canada wait too long to go to Luongo?

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and is currently at the Olympics for AP. By now the entire world knows Canada’s Olympic fate rests with Roberto Luongo. The more interesting question for fellow goaltenders is why? After hearing coach Mike Babcock break it down Monday, the bigger questions may be why it took so long to go away from living legend Martin Brodeur, and does the move maybe come too late? “We’re in the winning business and to win games at any level you need big saves. You need momentum-changing saves and we’re looking for Lou to do that for us,” Babcock explained of his goaltending switch “He’s a great big butterfly goaltender and if you look at the way the puck went in our nets last night, with traffic and people in front a lot, which is the way the game is now. Sometimes just being down in that big butterfly things hit you and bump into you. We believe Lou gives us a real good opportunity to win.” In other words, Babcock appears to agree with the inGoal analysis detailed in this space after the Americans beat Canada 5-3 on Sunday, that three...

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