Canada’s and Luongo’s Olympics saved by IIHF-mandated equipment change
See also – InGoal interviews with Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller
Luongo’s Interpretation of IIHF Rulebook may have resulted in game-saving stop on Demitra
Roberto Luongo’s sprawling glove stab off Slovakia’s Pavol Demitra on Friday night may yet go down as the stop of the Olympics for Canada, a game-saving act of desperation that left an entire nation holding its breath and put them into the gold-medal game.
As nice as Luongo’s save was – a mirror image of the egregiously soft sharp-angle goal that made it necessary – it came with an unlikely assist.
Turns out Luongo might not have made the stop, and Canada might not be playing for gold, if not for an odd International Ice Hockey Federation equipment rule that forced him to swap out his usual Reebok glove for an earlier model.
Only his puck-stopping peers may have noticed this, but Luongo has switched from the Reebok P3 glove he wears with the Canucks to a P2 with Team Canada.
When inGoal magazine asked Luongo about the switch after practice Saturday, he said it was because IIHF rules mandated a separate cuff on the glove, which the new one-piece P3 does not have. And while a review of the IIHF rulebook didn’t make that clear beyond showing a picture of a cuffed glove – after all the pads they showed were from the late-90s and would have worked only for Martin Brodeur – Luongo’s interpretation may have saved Canada.
How? Because the one-piece P3 cuff curves down from the thumb towards the bottom of the wrist, while the P2 cuff runs straight across from the cuff. So where did Luongo point when InGoal asked him Saturday where Demitra’s shot hit him? To the top of the cuff, near the thumb, a space that wouldn’t have been filled by his usual P3 blocker.
Did it make all the difference? Tough to say, but looking where Luongo pointed and considering how little he got of that shot, it seems likely.
“Yeah, it was a reaction,” Luongo said of the save. “After the first save, when I looked over I saw one of their players and I just tried to get as much as I could across. Luckily, it hit the cuff of my glove.”
Luck – and a fateful interpretation of the IIHF rule book.
USA, Canada get inside scouting reports on Luongo, Miller
American forward Patrick Kane fired the first salvo at Canadian goaltender Roberto Luongo as early as Friday afternoon, saying after scoring twice in the U.S. romp over Finland, “that’s a goaltender I wouldn’t mind facing again.”
Kane, of course, scored three times to knock Luongo and the Canucks out of the second round of last year’s playoffs, a loss that added to a can’t-win-the-big-game reputation for the Team Canada stopper, who took months to get over it.
In fact, Luongo may not be over it yet.
“If he’s got a book, good for him,” Luongo bristled when Kane’s comments were relayed after the win over Slovakia. “I’m just going to play my position.”
Exactly how both Luongo and U.S. counterpart Ryan Miller play their positions was a big topic of conversation on the eve of Sunday’s showdown for gold. The U.S. exploited Canadian legend Martin Brodeur’s old-school stand up style with shots along the ice in a 5-3 win a week earlier, thanks in large part to the scouting of current and former Devils teammates Brian Rafalski, Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner. One of Luongo’s teammates sees a similar possibility.
“He has a couple areas I think we can exploit and I’m sure not going to keep any secrets,” Canucks and U.S. forward Ryan Kesler said of Luongo, who isn’t always at his best on plays from along and below the goal line. “It looked like he was cheating on the one, so maybe we’ll be throwing sharp-angle shots at the net.”
As for Miller, it’s clear the Canadians, whose coaching staff includes his Buffalo Sabres bench boss Lindy Ruff, plan to get a lot more bodies in front of and on top of the slightly built U.S. star. And while that may seem like a standard NHL response to any goaltender on a hot streak, in this case it’s driven by a scouting report that Miller likes to play aggressively out of his crease, and has been using the larger IIHF blue ice to do so even more.
While many goalies use a “heels out” philosophy (heels of the skates on the edge of the crease) to establish initial depth, Miller takes it out even further. And that is something the Canadians want to target by pushing him back towards his goal line, just as they did to Slovakia’s Jaroslav Halak on Friday by getting bodies to the net, eliminating his reaction advantage by making it tough to see and making him play down to his 5-foot-10 size with tips and deflections.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re real strong in our own net and then we’ve got to go get him,” said Canadian coach Mike Babcock. “We need traffic and we’ve got to go get him. We have to be at the net, we have to get more second chances. We didn’t have enough hard chances against them (in the last game against the U.S. last Sunday. We never got into their D enough and spent a lot of time around the front of their net. Just make it harder. The chances we had looked like good chances, but on good goalies when they are in the zone, you are not going to score unless you have traffic or second opportunities.”
Canada’s Babcock not shying away from Luongo’s defining moment
Rather than try to ease the pressure of erasing Luongo’s not-a-big-game-goalie reputation, Canadian coach Mike Babcock wants his goalie to embrace it.
“Lou’s got to be good tomorrow, he knows that,” said Babcock. “It’s interesting, we all have these opportunities in our careers to make a name for ourselves and he has that opportunity. Some people might think that’s pressure. I think it’s just the opposite. Why wouldn’t you want to be great? He’s a great big man, this is his home building, he’s got to love it when they go “Loo” like that. I would. I think he’ll be great. Be good tomorrow, have fun, just enjoy the opportunity.”
Luongo Olympic photo courtesy of _Tawcan
Luongo Canucks photo by Scott Slingsby