A Different Standard

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

After the nation let out a collective sigh of relief when the horn sounded to end Canada’s victory over Latvia, most of the talk surrounded the performance of 21 year old Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis.

The goaltending performance of a lifetime for Gudlevskis ended with him totaling 55 saves on 57 shots in a game completely dominated by Canada in every statistical category except for save percentage.

There in lies the problem for Hockey Canada. Once again out dueled in goal, but is it as simple as that?

The problem with Canada’s goaltending is not the goaltenders and to a lesser extent not the training that goaltenders are receiving in this country. We have a long ways to go at a grassroots level training goalies, but that’s a subject for a different day. Read that first line again though, our goaltenders are not the problem.

The problem with Canada’s goaltending is about expectation and opportunity.

In a game like today’s when Canada out shot the opposition by a nearly 4 to 1 margin, it’s logical for us to expect that we would have out scored Latvia 4 to 1.

Furthermore it’s also logical for us to expect that since Carey Price is a much more established and accomplished goaltender than Kristers Gudlevskis that 16 shots against should have been an easy game for Price and that him letting in 1 goal on those 16 shots could be a bit disappointing.

The problem with that logic is that it doesn’t take into consideration the quality of the shots and the quality of the scoring chances that the shots resulted from.

If you watched the game, I would hope that you agree with me that Carey Price played a near flawless game aside from a puck handling error and miscommunication behind his goal with his defenceman.

I thought that Price looked positionally sound throughout the game and had a tidy game as far as controlling rebounds and avoiding any second chance opportunities from the Latvians.

There was one save in the third period that he looked somewhat awkward, but his positioning was good and once again, no rebound. The goal the Latvians scored was a good effort by Lauris Darzins on a clear breakaway that was a low percentage opportunity for Price to stop.

While Canada had 57 shots on the Latvian goal a lot of them weren’t of the highest quality, intended more for a rebound chance or just to get one through the crowd in front. Throw in a couple of shots that hit iron and a number of near misses and you can see how close Canada was to blowing this game wide open.

The second part of the Canadian goaltending problem is opportunity. When was the last time a Canadian team had 57 shots against in an international competition? Or even 40 shots against? Very rarely do Canadian goaltenders get the opportunity to be the hero and all too often they have the opportunity to be the goat.

Speaking from personal experience it’s easier to be the goalie that’s getting peppered with shots than it is to be the goalie counting the minutes since he last saw a shot.

For Canadian goaltenders it’s a different standard. In a sense they’ve been given the keys to the kingdom, but if you don’t bring back the crown it’ll be your head.


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