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Brodeur, Luongo downplay matchup at The Rock

Wednesday, 12.02.2009 / 2:13 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

 
NEWARK, N.J. -- Roberto Luongo couldn't help himself. He knew the kind of juice he'd get out of the joke he had stored in his mind for a while, so he didn't even wait for the first question to be asked.

"I got a text from Stevie Y saying whoever wins tonight gets to start (in the Olympics)," Luongo, laughing, told the assembled media here at Prudential Center where the Canucks' goalie and Team Canada hopeful will square off with his idol, neighbor and No. 1 competitor for playing time in the upcoming Olympics.

Luongo, of course, was kidding. He has not received a text message from Yzerman saying anything about the repercussions Wednesday's game at Prudential Center against the Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils could have on Team Canada's depth chart.

In fact, neither Luongo nor Brodeur, who are both from the same suburb of Montreal, St. Leonard, will buy into anything of the sort.

They are, rightfully so, downplaying this hyped matchup, saying it has no bearing on the decisions Yzerman, Mike Babcock and the entire Canadian coaching staff, including the Devils' Jacques Lemaire, will make come February.

"I think it's early," Lemaire said Wednesday morning. "We still have a couple of months to go."

That's not stopping those of us who aren't skating in Wednesday's game of playing up the significance of this ballyhooed matchup of star goalies.

It'd be impossible to find a Canadian citizen or any hockey fan or media type watching Wednesday's game who won't, at one time or another, analyze the matchup through their Olympic-colored glasses.

Even Steve Yzerman, in a text to NHL.com, said he's in Boston to check out the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but he has his Tivo set to record Canucks vs. Devils.

"They're both Canadian, so I'm hoping it's a scoreless tie," Yzerman texted.

"It has nothing to do with what is going to happen in February, but I think it's a great thing to look at for the fans," added Brodeur, "especially the Canadian fans who are looking at these Olympics to be the greatest thing for them and for us."

Playing along with that theme, we asked both goalies what the criteria should be for who does get to start in February? Hey, all of us who love to play GM and pick our own Canadian Olympic rosters need to know.

Luongo passed, saying it's not up to him and he doesn't waste any of his energy thinking about it. Brodeur, the savvy vet with loads of Olympic experience, took the analytical approach.

"They look into your whole first part of the season, but after that it comes down to what system they're going to put out there and what goalie they feel comfortable with in that system," Brodeur said.

Does it matter who is hot or cold at the time?

"You know, I don't know," Brodeur said. "I have been there three times so far and I can't recall being really, really hot or not hot at all going in. We're going to need to perform when the time comes and definitely having a track record of good play coming in makes it helpful for the people making the decision to make a more educated decision. Again, though, it's a feeling and coaches go on their hunch once in a while so who knows what is going to happen."

It would seem, at least before Wednesday's game, that if all things are equal Brodeur has the edge based on his experience and how well he has played this season despite the fact that he's 37-years-old.

Brodeur is 15-6-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. Luongo, who got off to a brutal start and also sat out some games with a broken rib, has recovered to go 10-9-0 with a 2.56 GAA and .910 save percentage.

The Devils are clearly a more consistent team than the Canucks and Brodeur's defense has been better in front of him than Luongo's. New Jersey allows 2.1 goals per game while the Canucks are giving up 2.6.
"I got a text from Stevie Y saying whoever wins tonight gets to start (in the Olympics)." -- Roberto Luongo, joking with reporters
But Brodeur, a three-time Olympian and the starter in 2002 (gold medal) and 2006, doesn't expect or want anything handed to him on a silver platter.

In 1998 he was told before the Olympics began that Patrick Roy was going to get all the playing time in Nagano. He was crushed and doesn't believe anybody, goalie or skater, should have to go through that.

"The worst thing that can happen for an athlete is to have a situation where you know you're not going to play so you go into the tournament and you're not as mentally and physically sharp as you need to be," Brodeur said. "It's a short tournament and a lot of things happen real quick."

"It has nothing to do with what is going to happen in February, but I think it's a great thing to look at for the fans, especially the Canadian fans who are looking at these Olympics to be the greatest thing for them and for us."
-- Martin Brodeur

A perfect example would be the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, when Brodeur couldn't play in the semifinal game against the Czech Republic due to injury. Luongo was waiting breathlessly to get the nod to play and he finally did.

He beat the Czechs in overtime, 4-3, before giving the net back to Brodeur for the championship game against Finland. Brodeur made 27 saves in leading Canada to a 3-2 win.

"That could happen again in the Olympics," Brodeur said. "Everybody has to have a chance. It makes you excited to go and be a part of Team Canada."

That excitement, though, is tempered right now. As much fun as it might be for us and all of you reading this article, it's not a hot topic for the two goalies in question.

They've got a game to play, and neither one will be wearing Canadian colors Wednesday.

"It's just a regular game," Luongo said. "I'm not really facing Marty. He's not shooting on me. We're just on the ice at the same time. I'm more concerned about (Zach) Parise and (Patrik) Elias than Marty."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com