Monday, April 23, 2007

Brodeur and the Olympics - Part 4: Salt Lake

On February 15, 2002, at the first game of the Olympics, Sweden exposed Canada, beating Joseph 5 times on their way to a 5-2 win. Four of the goals were scored by Swedish shooters left all alone in front of the Canadian net, as the Canadian defence looked disoriented on the big ice. Only one of the goals was a softie, a partially screened slapshot from the top of the circle by Mats Sundin (Youtube highlights). The next day, commentators were focusing mostly on how Sweden had outclassed Canada. Joseph's play was described as "pedestrian", but he did not receive the majority of the blame for the result.

As per the pre-tournament plan to rotate goalies, Brodeur got the start in the second game. He was not particularly great against Germany, stopping 18 of 20 shots and allowing a soft goal. Despite Canada winning 3-2, he was outplayed by unknown Marc Seliger at the other end who stopped 34 of 37 Canadian shots. Mostly because of the disaster that had befallen Cujo and his teammates against Sweden, Team Canada's brass decided Brodeur had done well enough to deserve more starts, and decided to go with him for the rest of the tournament.

In the next game, Canada outshot the Czech Republic 36-23, but the result was a 3-3 tie. Brodeur was unspectacular, stopping 20 of 23 shots. He was again outplayed by the opposition's goaltender, as Hasek stopped 33 of 36 shots, including several acrobatic saves. In his post game analysis, SI's Daren Eliot took Hasek over Brodeur as the goalie of the game.

Against Finland, Canada dominated most of the game, holding a huge edge in shots over the first two periods, but struggled to beat Jani Hurme. In the third period, Finland had some more chances, but in all managed just 18 shots on Brodeur, 17 of which were stopped. In his analysis, Eliot rated Hurme as the game's best goaltender.

In the semifinals, Canada beat Belarus 7-1. Brodeur let in a soft goal by defenseman Ruslan Salei, and was otherwise rarely tested, stopping 13 of 14 shots. Despite the scoreline, Eliot yet again picked Brodeur's counterpart as the game's best goalie, choosing Belarus' Andrei Mezin.

In the final, Brodeur had his best game of the tournament, undoubtedly coming up big when it mattered most. He made several key saves, including his famous third-period pad save on Brett Hull. He was beaten 5-hole on an odd-man rush by Tony Amonte, but the second goal was a tough deflection. In all Brodeur stopped 31 of 33 shots, outplayed Mike Richter, and helped Canada to a 5-2 win.

As a whole, Brodeur was not particularly outstanding during the 2002 Olympics. He was solid enough, giving Canada decent goaltending, and was at his best in the final against the Americans. Even so, he was probably outplayed by the opposing goaltender in every game except for the final, but since Canada was the most talented team they were able to win anyway. In a CNN/SI poll, more fans picked goaltending rival Mike Richter than picked Brodeur as the best player in the Olympics. This wasn't just pro-American bias either, as Richter was voted to the tournament all-star team as the best goalie, ahead of Brodeur and others. Nevertheless, the gold medal and the attention surrounding it had a big impact on the career of Martin Brodeur.


Anonymous said...

obviously this guy eliot had no credibility and probabaly some bias naming a goalie who gave up 7 goals as having a better performance than a goalie who gave up 1. stopping 13 of 14 is actually pretty good, translating to a save percentage of 92%.

Anonymous said...

same thing the previous game against finland. this guy eliot aparently felt that stopping 17 of 18 wasnt good enough? againt 17 of 18 equates to a 94% save percentage. and by the way, canada didnt outplay finalnd to the extend you make it seem, the game was tight the whole way, both teams got decent chances, and brodeur actually faced better quality changes late in the game.

Anonymous said...

For a game like Canada vs. Belarus, I wouldn't even bother naming Canadian players to the 3 Stars, unless they scored a hat-trick or had a shut-out.

7 goals shouldn't be Starred either, though.

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