The Olympic torch is now in Canada, and so are the protesters. With one month down in the NHL season, now's a good time to look at which goalies have risen and fallen on various Olympic team radars.
USA - Everyone entered the season expecting Tim Thomas to be a lock on Team USA. But the Bruins have struggled out of the gate, thanks to injuries and poor play, and that has skewed Thomas' numbers. Brian Burke will have an interesting decision to make here, as Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson and Jonathan Quick are all off to tremendous starts.
Russia - The Russians, unlike in the past, are incredibly deep in net, with Ilya Bryzgalov leading the way. Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeni Nabokov are old stand bys. Last year's playoff rookie sensation Semyon Varlamov has come down to earth, but if he catches fire soon the Russians may take him over one of the last two. Given the way Jose Theodore is playing in Washington these days, that's not likely going to happen soon.
Canada - Theodore is off to a great start this season, yet he has no chance of playing for Canada at the Olympics. That being said, Canada's goaltending picture is getting murkier. Expected incumbents Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo have been okay by their standards, but neither are off to great starts. Marc-Andre Fleury is easily Canada's hottest goalie in October, with former Olympic backup Marty Turco right up there with him. Cam Ward has played strongly, while Steve Mason has not slipped from last year's impressive pace.
Finland - Reigning Jennings trophy winner Niklas Backstrom has played well but a weak Minnesota team masks that. Pekka Renne has also played well in Nashville, but neither have given any indication that they can carry the Finns to the gold medal game. Then again, no one expected Antero Niittymaki to do that in 2006. Tuukka Rask is also in the running. It won't matter if Miikka Kirprusoff is on the top of his game.
Sweden - There is no doubt that Henrik Lundqvist will be the king of the Tre Kroner team. Then again 36 year old Johan Hedberg is the only other Swede to play in the NHL so far.
Czech Republic - Ondrej Pavelec has taken over the #1 role in Atlanta, while Tomas Vokoun continues to toil with lowly Florida. Neither strike fear into the minds of opposition shooters. Don't count on Dominik Hasek, either. He's now injured, and was not exactly dominating the Czech league.
Slovakia - Jaroslav Halak continues to bail out Montreal in stretches, but has yet to prove he is anything beyond a backup netminder at the elite level. Will Vancouver be his coming out party? The only other NHL option is Peter Budaj, though he was felled by H1N1.
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