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The Olympic Race

Before the beginning of the 2001-2002 NHL season, every hockey fan around the world already knows what is the EVENT of the year; THE OLYMPIC GAMES. For over a year, the coaching staff of every national team has been working hard to select players that could lead the country to a gold medal.

The selection of the goaltenders could make the difference between a gold medal (think of the Czech) and an early elimination (think of the USA). As of mid-October 2001, here are the 3 top goalies of each country, along with a brief comment and their 2000-01 GoalieMania ranking,  that should be at Salt Lake City in February.

CZECH REPUBLIC 

Dominik HASEK (Detroit Red Wings) 
Season 2000-2001 : 1st Playoffs 
2000-2001 : 4th

Everybody remember the incredible performance of the Dominator in Nagano. He was the best player of the tournament and came back home with a gold medal. He will be the number goaltender with the defending champion.

Roman CECHMANEK (Philadelphia Flyers) 
Season 2000-2001 : 3rd 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 14th

Last year's surprise will probably be the back-up for the Czechs. He's a reliable insurance policy in case of an injury. But, don't expect to see him starts a game.

Roman TUREK (St-Louis Blues) 
Season 2000-2001 : 23rd 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 2nd

The bad performances of Turek against Colorado in last year playoffs hurt him badly. He's going to watch the olympics from the stands or even from home.

CANADA 

Patrick ROY (Colorado Avalanche) 
Season 2000-2001 : 11th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 1st

The only person that is able to steal the number 1 title from Patrick Roy is Patrick Roy himself. Incredible in playoffs, he's the man that could lead team Canada to the gold medal.

Curtis JOSEPH (Toronto Maple Leafs) 
Season 2000-2001 : 5th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 3rd

He had great playoffs too. The beginning of the present season si going to be really important. Joseph is an inch ahead of Brodeur, that's up to him to keep this lead.

Martin BRODEUR (New-Jersey Devils) 
Season 2000-2001 : 15th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 7th

Canada is the only country to have the chance of having 3 goalies that could do the job of a number 1 goaltender. Even if Brodeur is in 3rd place, he could be the man between the pipe in February. He's going to have to forget last year playoff and play like he can this year.

SWEDEN 

Tommy SALO (Edmonton Oilers) 
Season 2000-2001 : 17th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 9th

Is the UNDERDOG going to haunt Canada again? Remember in 1994 when he stop Kariya in Shootout or in 1996 when he pushed team Canada in overtime at the World Cup.

Johan HEDBERG (Pittsburg Penguins) 
Season 2000-2001 : 61st 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 5th

The last year playoffs discovery just took the vacant seat in team Sweden. Even if he doesn't have real challenger for back-up, he's going to prove to the coaching staff that he's able to play at the olympic level.

Johan HOLMQVIST (New-York Rangers) 
Season 2000-2001 : 77th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 12th (AHL)

The young goaltender from the Rangers organization will have to battle hard against many other young Swedish prospect an veteran from the Sweden Elite league.

U.S.A. 

Mike DUNHAM (Nashville Predators) 
Season 2000-2001 : 4th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

The most improve goalie of last year in the NHL is going to have a chance of a lifetime. If he keep on playing that well, he will be the starting goaltender for the American team... Only him can win this job.

Mike RICHTER (New-York Rangers) 
Season 2000-2001 : 32nd 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

The veteran had a year to forget lat year. But, he still have a lot of experience in international competition. He's going to stay healthy and put some great goaltending from the beginning of the season.

Robert ESCHE (Phoenix Coyotes) 
Season 2000-2001 : 46th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

Quiet in the season, he surprised many people at the world championship last year. If Richter doesn't do the job, Esche could be name the official Back-up for Team USA

RUSSIA 

Nikolai KHABIBULIN (Tampa Bay Lightning) 
Season 2000-2001 : 74e 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

Even with a 2 years break from the NHL, Khabibulin is almost alone in the race for number 1 spot for team Russia. He has a lot of time to be prepared for the job he'll have to do.

Vadim TARASOV (Montreal Canadiens) 
Season 2000-2001 : N/A 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

Tarasov was name best goalie in Russia for the past 2-3 years. That's one of the reason why he's in the plans of the coaching staff. He's going to play at Quebec in the AHL this year and that will help him to understand the north-american style.

Evgeny KONSTANTINOV (Tampa Bay Lightning) 
Season 2000-2001 : 24e (IHL) 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

Between all the Russian goalies who has played in America last year, Konstantinov was the best. He will have to make is place by beating other young Russian and some older that plays in Russia.

FINLAND

Jane HURME (Ottawa Senators) 
Season 2000-2001 : 45th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

The young Sen's keeper just complete his first NHL season. He will have to take advantage of his few starts before the olympic to get ready. The bronze winners at Nagano will have to work hard if they want to keep their place in the top 3. .

Mika KIPRUSSOFF (San Josť) 
Season 2000-2001 : 73rd (4th AHL) 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 13th

The mysterious back-up of Evgeny Nabokov came out of the dark in playoffs against St-Louis. He's tall and has a great technique, that's going to help him to get number 2 place with team Finland. If he play well before Christmas, he could even be the starter at Salt Lake City.

Ari AHONEN (New-Jersey Devils) 
Season 2000-2001 : N/A 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : N/A

According to Hockey News, Ahonen is the number 1 prospect of the New-Jersey devils. He played in Europe last year and he's going to play at Albany this year (AHL). He'll have to battle with Mikka Noronen for the last place with team Finland.

OTHER COUNTRIES 

Arthus IRBE - LATVIA (Carolina Hurricanes) 
Season 2000-2001 : 12th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 14th

If his country get by the preliminary round, Irbe is the type of goalie that can steal a game by himself. Since the NHL keep on playing during the preliminary round, he'll have to pray if he wants to play.

David AEBISHER - SWITZERLAND (Colorado Avalanche) 
Season 2000-2001 : 44th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 22nd

The Stanley Cup champion would also like to play in the Olympic to show the rest of the world that he will be there when Roy retired.

Olaf KOLZIG - GERMANY (Washington Capitals) 
Season 2000-2001 : 13th 
Playoffs 2000-2001 : 10th

The German team is lucky to have a star player like Olie Kolzig. But, like Arthus Irbe, he's only going to help his team in the second round of the tournament. Team Germany will have to beat Slovakia, the best team of the preliminary round, if they want the Vezina winner top lay at Salt Lake city.


 

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