Team Canada Needs Carey Price or Marc-Andre Fleury to Return to Dominance Soon

Jun 24, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Carey Price Vegas Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Carey Price Vegas Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur? Maybe Curtis Joseph? Roberto Luongo or Brodeur? Luongo or Carey Price? These were the questions that the coaching staff of previous Team Canada Olympic teams needed to ask themselves. No matter who they picked, they would be sitting a no-doubt Hall of Fame goalie on the bench every game.

In 2022, that might not be the case.

Suddenly, there are not many Canadian goaltenders dominating the sport. With Carey Price missing the entire season thus far after a 30 day stint in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, and Marc-Andre Fleury getting off to a rough start with the Chicago Blackhawks, the two favorites to start for Canada have become huge questions marks.

Due to the increased screening due to Covid-19, Canada had to send a list of 56 potential participants to the Olympic Committee before the season. This included six goaltenders. In addition to Price and Fleury are Jordan Binnington, Carter Hart, Darcy Kuemper, and Mackenzie Blackwood.

When looking for a starting goaltender for Canada at the Olympics, a few key criteria used to be necessary. That would be recent stats that put you in the running for a Vezina, some “big game” experience such as Stanley Cup Playoff successes, and possibly previous experience on the international stage.

Guys like Brodeur, Roy, Luongo, and Price would have checked all of these boxes. Price and Fleury would this season as well.

Price just about won a Conn Smythe last summer helping lead the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final. He was the goaltender for Canada when they won gold at the 2014 Olympics, posting shutouts in the semifinal against USA and final against Sweden. Price was also dominant at the 2017 World Cup, putting up a 1.40 GAA and a .957 SV% which was actually considerably worse than his 0.59 GAA and .972 SV% at the 2014 Olympics. Price was also arguably the best goaltender in each of the past two Stanley Cup playoffs so he is still prepared to play at the highest level.

Fleury was excellent in last season’s playoffs as well. He had a 2.03 GAA and a .918 SV%, taking the Vegas Golden Knights to the third round of the playoffs before losing to Price’s Canadiens. Fleury had an even better regular season, posting a 1.98 GAA and a .928 and won the Vezina Trophy.

But that was last season. Fleury has since been traded to Chicago and has a 3.36 GAA to go with a .901 SV%. What if Price isn’t back soon or doesn’t find his game right away after his eventual return and Fleury doesn’t rebound from a difficult start to this season?

The other four on the short list don’t instill the same confidence as a healthy Price or a hot Fleury.

Binnington has won a Stanley Cup and was sensational in that 2018-19 season. He hasn’t quite reached those heights since. He’s been good, but his save percentage hasn’t been above .912 in the past three seasons so he isn’t really putting up Vezina numbers. He has also been awful in nine playoff games over the past two seasons, losing all of them and allowing just over four goals per game. He also has almost no international experience, getting into two World Junior games nearly a decade ago and being lit up.

Carter Hart has more international experience, putting up exceptional numbers at two World Juniors, including a 1.81 GAA and a .930 SV% in 2017. He also had a terrific showing at the 2019 World Championship, allowing just two goals in the three games he played. Hart has only played in one Stanley Cup Playoffs but he was great, posting a 2.23 GAA and a .926 SV% in 14 games for the Flyers in 2020.

The only flaw with Hart was he was not good at all last season. He had a 3.67 GAA and a .877 SV% in 27 games. He has been awesome this season, but is that enough to erase the memory of last season and install confidence the 23 year old is ready to carry Canada at the Olympics?

Blackwood doesn’t really meet any of the aforementioned criteria. He has just over 100 games of NHL experience, and a career GAA just over 3.00. His 3.04 GAA and .902 SV% don’t exactly scream Vezina candidate. He has almost no international experience and has not played a single NHL playoff game yet in his career. The 24 year old would be a risky choice to start at the Olympics.

Kuemper doesn’t have a lot of international experience, but he does have the numbers of a Vezina candidate. He got a few Vezina votes in 2018 and 2019 when he had save percentages of .925 and .928 with the Arizona Coyotes.

The good news is Price is skating again and should be back soon. Hopefully, he finds his game right away and is given the number one role at the Olympics. Also, it appears Fleury might be figuring things out with his new team. Though he started horribly, allowing at least four goals in each of his first four starts, he has been great recently. In his last seven games, he has a 2.29 GAA and a .931 SV%. He was really good in five of those seven games and allowed four goals in the other two.

That means in 11 games so far this season, he has allowed four or more goals six times and been excellent in the other five games. Fleury did win the Vezina last season, but he needs to find some consistency in a hurry if he wants the number one job for Team Canada. You just can’t have one really good game at the Olympics followed by a bad one.

Team Canada brass are going to be holding their breath hoping last year’s Fleury and last year’s playoff Price show up in the next couple of weeks. If not, they will be forced to give the net to Carter Hart or Darcy Kuemper and hope for the best.