Eventually, Hockey Canada's postmortem on the 2011 world junior collapse is going to come down to goaltending tactics.
Canada doesn't lose this tournament any other way.
Three times in the last decade, Canadian opponents have switched goalies in the gold-medal game, and gone on to win. If not for the triumvirate of defeats, Canada would be boasting of an unprecedented dynasty: eight goals medals in 10 years, seven in a row (and counting).
Instead, some uncomfortable questions:
Why are Canadian coaches so loyal to their starting goaltenders when the chips are down? And are they getting outfoxed by their international counterparts?
Rival coaches have been more than willing to deploy both goalies in winner-take-all scenarios, and their gambles have paid dividends. They are identifying moments when Canada is about to run away with gold, and neutralizing momentum with goaltending changes.
In 2002, Russia trailed 3-1 when it replaced starter Andrei Medvedev with Sergei Mylnikov and came back for a 5-4 victory in the Czech Republic. Pascal Leclaire allowed three goals in an eight-minute stretch of the second period, and the game-winner in the third. He went the distance for head coach Stan Butler.
Last year in Saskatoon, U.S. coach Dean Blais yanked Mike Lee just 24 minutes into a 3-3 game, and Jack Campbell helped author a golden upset.
Canadian coach Willie Desjardins hesitated on Jake Allen. He stood by his man until it was a two-goal deficit with 13 minutes remaining. Martin Jones faced just nine shots and allowed John Carlson's overtime winner in a 6-5 loss.
Then Wednesday in Buffalo, Igor Bobkov replaced Dmitri Shikin with Russia down 3-0 early in the second, and was perfect against 20 shots. It was brave move from coach Valeri Bragin, because Bobkov had allowed six goals to Canada in the tournament opener.
Should Dave Cameron have pulled Mark Visentin with Olivier Roy, who had beaten Russia on Boxing Day, sitting on the bench?
Maybe not at 3-3, but what about at 4-3? What would Blais or Bragin have done?
More difficult questions. And ones worth asking of those who would be Canada's next world junior coach.Report Typo/Error