Hart or Ingram, before the tournament this seemed like an easy question or at least a question that had no wrong answer. Now after making it past the Czech Republic the Team Canada coaching staff has a tough decision, for all the wrong reasons, on its hands: Hart or Ingram? It almost feels crazy that Canada is in this situation. We’re talking about two of the best goalies in the Canadian Hockey League and Canadian fans are wondering which one is the least worse rather than which one is the better goalie whereas American fans have the very nice problem of choosing between Woll and Parsons.
So how did Team Canada get to this point where over halfway through the tournament the team still does not know who the starting goalie is? To start the tournament Canada went with Carter Hart versus the Russian team. The game was a 5-3 victory for Team Canada and Carter Hart. While the result is important a win is a team result, not an individual result and that’s the case in the game versus Russia.
In the 1st Period against Russia Carter Hart was about average. The goal from Mikhail Sergachev was stoppable but not a goal you would generally blame on a goalie as it was an accurate shot from the High Danger Area (HDA). There were only four other shots that period where Carter Hart steered all but one to the corner. 2nd Period was average as well for Hart as Russia barely tested Carter Hart at all as Hart had another four shots with only one coming from inside of the HDA. The 3rd Period is where Hart started to struggle as he allowed two goals in the 3rd with one coming from outside of the HDA.
Carter Hart’s overall impact on the Russia game was slightly below average. The problem with the Russian game wasn’t exactly the play of Hart on shots from the inside of the HDA, though that performance wasn’t ideal either. The issue I have at least is the play of Hart on shots coming from outside of the HDA. The impact Hart had on non-HDA shots was below average for a World Junior Championship goalie or any goalie. It was a game that Canada won in spite of Hart.
Fast forward to the Latvia and Slovakia games. In my opinion neither game was particularly useful in determining which one of Hart or Ingram should be the de facto starter. Against Slovakia Ingram faced all of seven shots with only one coming from inside of the HDA. On the other six shots that came from the non-HDA Ingram was near perfect. Latvia provided a better challenge for Team Canada compared to Slovakia. Hart faced 19 shots though only 4 came from inside of the HDA. Overall Hart had an above average impact on the game and improved on his non-HDA results from the Russian game. Hart’s HDA results were below average as he was scored twice on in the HDA.
Going into the American game Ducharme went with Connor Ingram. It was the right move to see what Ingram could provide against quality competition and Ingram provided the best performance we’ve seen out of a Canadian goalie in this year’s WJC. I talked about this on twitter before but I’ll say what I liked about his game again. Ingram showed improvement as the game went on, Ingram had a big above average impact on shots from the HDA (the near exact impact Joseph Woll made at the other end) and Ingram showed adjustment as well. Greenway goal was a goal you need a goalie to save and to Ingram’s credit he didn’t allow that same move to work again.
After the USA game it looked as if Canada finally found its starter. That is until we got to the game against the Czechs. Versus the Czechs Connor Ingram had a game very similar to Carter Hart’s game against Russia. 1st Period goal that wasn’t the Canadian goalies fault followed by two goals that were questionable and the third goal being one that you need your goalie to stop. To put it into perspective Ingram’s impact on shots from the HDA was about the worst in the tournament. It was Lasse Petersen vs. Sweden level of impact.
So now the situation that Canada faces is one of goaltending uncertainty against possibly the best team at the WJC. There is always pressure in a tournament when going in to the semi-final as a win gets you a chance at Gold. There will be added pressure for Ducharme and whoever he chooses to start against Sweden. For Ducharme you know the whole country is watching and neither goalie has given you a strong reason to choose them.
For Hart and Ingram the pressure is even larger. You are the last line of defense, you need to hold the fort against the best team at the WJC and you know the coaching staff isn’t sure about your play. If you are the goalie chosen you know you’ll be watched closely and one wrong mistake will either result in your team playing for Bronze or you could end up pulled. So a strong mental game is necessary here.
For both goalies this would be considered a “Bounce Back” situation. What Ducharme and the coaching staff should be asking is which one of Hart/Ingram will come back the strongest after their previous games. Hart has had one bounce back game in the WJC which was against Latvia. As mentioned above the game was merely average for Hart but it is only one game. If we look at how Carter Hart bounces back in the WHL he’s solid and one of the best. Hart has a 0.750 Quality Bounce Back Start % along with a 0.932 Bounce Back SV% in four Bounce Back game situations.
For Connor Ingram this will be his second Bounce Back game situation (if he starts vs Sweden) this season. His only other Bounce Back start this season came in the WHL on November 16th versus the Everett Silvertips where Ingram made 33 saves on 34 shots in a 2-1 OT win after being pulled the previous game versus the Prince George Cougars in a 7-0 loss.
With all this in mind (plus whatever information Ducharme has that isn’t available to the public) who should Canada anticipate starting against Sweden on Wednesday? For me you go back to Connor Ingram. He’s had the best game of a Canadian goalie at this tournament, he’s proven time and time again in the WHL what his skill level is and in his one bounce back game situation he proved to be a difference. Trust me I’m severely tempted to back with Carter Hart and see what he has to offer. Ingram though has shown he’s the best option in this tournament and you need to give him a shot against Sweden.