28 February 2010
This article was originally posted on Bloguin's Olympic Hockey Blog
Roberto Luongo will have the nation's hopes for a gold medal on his shoulders today. This is the biggest game in his career thus far. Back in Salt Lake in 2002 Martin Brodeur was the starter in goal for their gold medal win. This time round, Brodeur was expected to be the goalie for Team Canada again. He had the chance but he crumbled. In a 5-3 loss to the United States, Brodeur put Babcock in a position where he had to make a goalie change. Luongo was tapped on the shoulder and told he would be the starter for Team Canada.
Luongo now faces the pressure and expectations of his whole country to play a better game than Ryan Miller.
Luongo is no stranger to being a starter for Canada as he has won gold before in World Championships in 2003 and 2004, and silver in 2005. But an Olympic win with Team Canada on home ice will cement a legacy of Luongo being an elite goalie for Canada.
Luongo has had his faults, like that Visnovsky goal by Slovakia on Friday night. Canuck fans know that Luongo is a better goalie than that, he should have been right up against the post to stop that goal. Or last year in the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks, Luongo let in 7 goals in a 7-5 loss in the sixth and deciding game of the series. Three of those goals came from Team USA's Patrick Kane. Luongo was then interviewed on camera following the loss where he became teary-eyed. Anger from the fans and ridicule from hockey media and opposing fans soon followed after that video was aired.
Some critics think Luongo is overrated as a goalie, overpaid, and has not been able to win a big game.
Now is Luongo's chance to erase all that. If Luongo and Team Canada can win tomorrow's game, Luongo will begin a legacy. He was given a chance to step out of Brodeur's shadow when he got to start against Team Germany. In the game against Russia, Luongo did not have to do much with Russia not being able to create offense against the Canadians. But in the game against Slovakia, he let in a terrible goal from Visnovsky but came back in the final minute of the period to make an amazing save with his glove on Demitra that, with a win tomorrow could be looked at as the save of his life.
So Luongo now has the chance of his life. He doesn't have to be perfect in tomorrow's game. He doesn't have to get a shutout, no one expects that. He does have to elevate his game and makes the saves when he needs to.
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