Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor
January 14, 2011 6 Comments
For the first time in a long time the Vancouver Canucks have taken hold of first place not only in the Western Conference but in the entire National Hockey League. It is apparent that the time is now for this squad as it is most likely that their proverbial window of opportunity will not be open for very long.
The Canucks have arguably the most depth of any team in the NHL but their success still hinges on the man who was dubbed the backbone of the franchise not too long ago.
With sky-high expectations surrounding him, Roberto Luongo came to Vancouver in 2006 and did not disappoint. It was not an uncommon occurrence to witness the Bobby Lou show as it felt as thought night after night he would come up with a stellar performance. Some games he flat out carried his team to victory.
As good a team as the Canucks were in relative terms to other teams in the NHL, it was probably too often that they had to rely on their goaltender to get the win for them.
Oh how the times have changed.
After being given the key to the franchise prior to the 2008-09 season when he was named team captain and only the 7th goalie in NHL history to have that honour bestowed on him, Luongo’s play did not backup his newfound status.
His status as Canuck captain was revoked…err voluntarily given up prior to the start of this season and despite being named the NHL’s second star of the month in December, posting a 8-1-1 record to go along with a 2.07 GAA and .922 save percentage, Roberto Luongo is still the (E)X-Factor each night for this Vancouver team.
Like year’s past, the success of this Canuck team still depends on their netminder but the circumstances compared to previous season’s are drastically different.
It is not very often that these Canucks have had to rely on their goaltender to steal a game for them. Fans around the city are only hoping that Luongo can provide solid, consistent goaltending, which he has been unable to do over the past couple seasons.
The odd soft goal overshadowing an otherwise great performance is something that Vancouver fans have become all too accustom to.
The fact that backup protégé Cory Schneider has been lights out this season is not helping matters in the Luongo camp either. Schneider made 34 out of 35 saves last night as he lost his first regulation start of the season against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden 1-0.
Moreover, his “me-me” selfish attitude that is slowly rearing its ugly head is giving Luongo a reputation that is making him even less favourable to fans. Roberto Luongo on occasion has not been hesitant to throw teammates under the bus and just recently chose not to skate back out onto ice after being named first star of the game because he was upset at losing his shutout bid with 10.8 seconds remaining.
Even prior to the Canucks awarding Luongo a ludicrous 12 year $65 million contract and Cory Schneider’s impressive .231 GAA and .925 save percentage some people, including myself, wondered if the Vancouver Canucks were making the wrong decision by not exchanging Luongo for some valuable pieces while handing the reins over to Schneider a couple of years ago.
*Note — Here is the link to my facebook status not too long after Roberto Luongo signed his 12 year contract in case you are wondering if I am second guessing the contract.*
However, it is what it is and the Canucks are stuck with what they have. An overpaid, whiney, “franchise” goaltender.
Dependable goaltending is a necessity for any team hoping to make a serious run in the playoffs and this year should be no different. The past 5 Stanley Cup winning teams may not have had great goaltending throughout the season but have had their goalies get hot when it mattered most.
A big knock on Luongo has been his inability to come through in the clutch. He was finally able to get that important career defining win at the Winter Olympics last year, albeit a mediocre performance, but was unable to translate that into playoff glory.
Many have pointed out the huge workload that Luongo is burdened with during the regular season and the amount of key injuries that Canucks have had in recent years playing a part in his less than impressive playoff performance. This may be true to a certain extent; nevertheless his inability to raise his level of play in clutch time is a worrisome thought.
All excuses aside, in order for the Canucks to take the next step Roberto Luongo will need to find at least some of the form that warranted him the captain’s status and his 12 year contract. He needs to shed what has made him the ex-factor and once again become the factor.
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