For David LeNeveu and Marc Andre Fleury, the results of the past week prove one thing - at least right now, they are the best two young goaltenders in Canadian hockey. Playing the most nerve-wracking position in one of the most nerve-wracking environments, both goaltenders stood their ground and earned their spots...but the competition is far from over. With just over a week until the tournament begins, the Team Canada must determine just who is the best of the best.
Canada has two international preparation games that will allow both players one last chance to claim the top spot. Coach Marc Habscheid has said he will split the games between them, giving both players a start, but, after that it is anybody’s guess. "Both guys have worked extremely hard throughout the camp, and all four goalies were top notch. We do not have a goaltender selected at this point," said Habscheid. What the Canadian coaching staff does have is optimism.
Assistant Coach Mario Durocher said that having two very even goalies is a great advantage. "If one guy goes down to injury or has a bad game we’re very confident we can go to the other guy to win the game for us." He alluded to LeNeveu’s strong play since the summer training camp and the great selection camp that Fleury has had so far.
Fleury’s appointment to the team was culminated with an unbelievable exhibition against the Atlantic University All-Star team on Sunday night when he stopped all 27 shots he faced. "Some of the saves he made were incredible," noted Habscheid, adding, "he’s a special type of goaltender, he absolutely hates to get scored on even in practice, he really takes it personally."
Team Canada’s coaching staff does have the option of naming a clear number one goalie or of platooning them both. Each situation offers distinct advantage. Naming a number one starter establishes roles, letting each player knows what is expected from him. Splitting the duties between them gives the team the option of riding the hot hand. "We can’t decide now on a number one center let alone number one goalie,’ said Assistant Coach Mike Kelly, ‘it will be an interesting call."
The players themselves know that the competition is still wide open for the starting job, and neither would suggest they might have an advantage at this point. Both reiterated the exact phrase, "I have to keep working and see what happens." When Fleury was asked about the game against the AUH All-Stars helping his chances he humbly stated, "No I don’t think so, David has the same chance as me."
No matter what the decision, or how close the competition, Fleury and LeNeveu are now solidified on the same side. If one of them takes home gold from Halifax, they both do. As hard as it may be to sit and applaud one of the young phenoms is going to assume the role of cheerleader each night. Whoever draws this assignment will need nerves of steel, and be ready to save the day on a second’s notice. David LeNeveu and Marc Andre Fleury hold the keys to Canada’s success.