Mike Babcock's wheels have been turning in his massive hockey brain for months about how things are going to go for Canada in Sochi. The Team Canada and Red Wings head coach's toughest decision, however, may be who to hand the reins to in net.
Roberto Luongo and Carey Price are the top two candidates to start for Canada in Sochi, with Mike Smith seemingly a distant third. Babcock wants to get a look at two goalies in game action before he makes a final decision on who takes the job from there.
As he explained to Hockey Central on Sportsnet Radio, Babcock says he will split the goalies in Canada's first two games at the Olympics.
Canada starts the tournament Feb. 13 against Norway and has its second game against Austria on Feb. 14. Neither team is likely to pose much of a challenge. It will be the goalie that gets that third start that will likely be the No. 1 the rest of the way.
“I know who I think I'm going to start in Game 1,” Babacock told Sportsnet, noting that he would discuss it with his assistant coaches.
Both Price and Luongo offer solid options for Babcock, but neither's team is currently headed in the right direction in the standings. Still, Price is sporting a .922 save percentage, while Luongo carries a .920 mark. The latter has the Olympic experience to fall back on as well.
It's going to be interesting to see how this goes. Babcock did not commit to a No. 1 goalie at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver for a while, switching off between Luongo and Martin Brodeur. It ended up working out OK, but the goaltending situation never seemed wholly settled.
With the lack of success for Canada in the last two overseas Olympics, the goaltending may loom largely for the defending gold medalists.
Babcock also dished on some potential line combinations, confirming that Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz will remain on a line together (obviously). Who will play with the Pittsburgh Penguins duo is a secret, though. He will try to keep a lot of teammates together.
The Canadian head coach will also meet with Steven Stamkos to discuss the winger's status before making a final decision on whether or not he is ready to go to Sochi.
This last week leading up to the first men's hockey game in Sochi should be rather intriguing when it comes to Team Canada.