WILMINGTON — Claude Julien doesn’t like to talk too much about other teams’ players, so in a session with the media Friday that centered largely around the Olympics, the Team Canada Associate Coach was rather tight-lipped when asked to assess Tuukka Rask‘s chances with Team Finland.
“You’re asking me a question that has nothing to do with Team Canada, so I don’t comment on other teams,” Julien said with a smirk. “I’m happy that Finland has chosen Tuukka. He’s had a good year.”
Finland is considered to be stacked at the goaltender position, as it features Rask, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Team Canada is considered to be loaded, though its perceived weakness — if it has one — is in net, where it has Roberto Luongo, Carey Price and Mike Smith. Price and Luongo both have a 2.36 goals-against average as of Friday, good for 14th and 16th in the NHL, respectively, while Smith is 37th in the league with a 2.85 clip.
“We’re fine. We’re fine,” Julien said. “I mean, we’ve got a goaltender in Luongo that won a goaltender. You’ve got a goaltender in Price that, to me, has probably been one of the steadiest goaltenders this year, has done a great job for Montreal, and then Smith has had a good year.
“Where people may be questioning that, I’m not. Right now, it’s just a matter of going out and showing that we have the right goaltending threesome to again compete for that gold.”
This marks the second time this week that Luongo has been defended by a member of the Bruins, as Milan Lucic went out of his way to speak to the character of the embattled Canucks netminder on Monday.
“I think too many people point the finger too much on Luongo,” Lucic said. “I think he’s a great goaltender, and I mean, he was still able to get [the Canucks] one win away from the ultimate goal. I think it shows the type of person that he is going through what he went through with how he was treated over there by everyone, and he still managed to keep his game at a high level, and he’s back on the Olympic team. He’s still one of the best goaltenders in the league, so as far as that goes, it shows a lot about his character and I wish him all the best in Sochi.”
On the subject of Steven Stamkos, who undoubtedly has a big fan in Julien (the Bruins coach visited Stamkos in the hospital after the young superstar broke his tibia in Boston in November), Julien said he felt bad that the Lightning center wouldn’t be headed to Sochi, but feels Martin St. Louis is a more than serviceable replacement.
“It is disappointing, because he’s one of the elite players,” Julien said. “I think everybody knows he was a shoo-in right from the get-go, but at the same time we keep talking about our depth and how Canada has enough players to make two teams. Well, we went and got another player that, in my mind, deserved to be on our team right from the start.
“When I say that, [I mean] we have to limit ourselves to a certain number, but there’s no doubt that he’s good enough to play — we’re talking about Marty St. Louis here — and there’s others on that list that could easily step into our lineup. You live with the situation, and I think if anything, they’re very smart at making the decision that’s for the well-being of Steven Stamkos. It’s unfortunate for us, but in the long run for the athlete and for the people that want to watch the guy play and be part of the NHL, it was the right decision, I guess.”