Commentary

It's time Canada made a change in net

Updated: February 22, 2010, 3:08 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Eight years ago at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Pat Quinn made a gutsy call that changed Canada's fortunes and ultimately led to its first Olympic gold medal in 50 years.

Goalie Curtis Joseph was out and Martin Brodeur was in after only one game.

Now that same question weighs on the mind of the current Canadian Olympic coach with all of Canada in panic mode: Does Mike Babcock make a switch in net?

Martin Brodeur
Byron Hetzler/US PresswireMartin Brodeur has an .867 save percentage over three games in the 2010 Olympics.

Brodeur has no apologies to make to anyone. He's the NHL's all-time winningest goalie, and no one will ever question his pedigree. But right now, in this tournament, he may not be the right man to play goal for Team Canada.

The four goals he allowed on 22 shots Sunday night simply doesn't cut it. Not in the Olympics. Not with the stakes so high.

"What I'll do is just without emotion. I'll watch the game here tonight and then I'll make my decision and go from there," Babcock said after Canada's stunning 5-3 loss to the underdog Americans. "Obviously tonight was a night we would have liked to have been better in that area. But we'll have a look at it and make a decision."

Not exactly a vote of confidence. Because, the fact is, Team USA has no business beating Canada if Brodeur has a normal game in net. There's plenty of other blame to go around (mental mistakes and defensive gaffes), but if you outshoot a team 45-23, you have to win.

"It was a tough game," Brodeur said when asked for a self-critique. "They got some bounces, they scored some goals, one went off my player. I thought I made some key saves in the game to turn it around, but we just didn't take advantage of it. I think after the two breakaway saves I made in the second, I feel that maybe something was going to happen, but we went out there and took three penalties in a row from there. They scored that fourth goal and that was important for them."

Roberto Luongo, Team Canada's designated No. 2 goalie ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury, has played some big international games over his career, including leading Canada to a gold medal in a hostile environment in Prague at the 2004 World Championships. This is also a rink, GM Place (known as Canada Hockey Place during the Games), where he's called home for four seasons. Don't underestimate that comfort factor.

The hook may seem harsh, especially given Brodeur's illustrious résumé; but if anyone would understand this decision, it would be him after Joseph was benched one game into what was supposed to be his 2002 Olympics.

One can understand Babcock's hesitation. With 35 million Canadians heaping tons of pressure on this hockey team, he's got a veteran goalie in Brodeur who's a calming influence. But you also need to stop the puck. Brodeur's save percentage through three games is .867. Not good enough.

Time for Babcock to make the tough but right decision: It's Luongo's turn.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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