Win or go home.
Back against the wall.
Pick any cliché that you want, but what it means is that the Vancouver Canucks find themselves very close to calling it an early summer. And since Alain Vigneault opened up a whole new can of worms by starting Cory Schneider in Game 3, the question is who do you start in the pivotal Game 4?
The big problem is that neither goalie has played their way out of a starting job.
In Games 1 and 2, Roberto Luongo was the only reason the Canucks had a chance to win. During those games, Vancouver committed a medley of turnovers, bad penalties and blown defensive zone assignments.
It doesn’t matter how good of a team you are, when you play that poorly defensively, you should be on the receiving end of a blowout. Instead, Luongo gave Vancouver a chance in both games, including three key saves in the first minute of Game 1.
The bottom line is that Luongo wasn’t the problem, and he should’ve started Game 3. But Vigneault said, “It’s time to change the momentum a little bit,” so he started Schneider.
Game 3 played out as one would expect—great goaltending from both sides in a low scoring game. Schneider played fantastic stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced, but Jonathan Quick did what he’s done all year—stop pucks and earn shutouts.
So now instead of having one goalie that’s playing well and not winning, the Canucks have two goalies that have played well but are not winning. There’s enough pressure on the team as is, but now Vigneault has added a goalie controversy to the mix.
So the question remains: Do you start Luongo, or do you start Schneider?
I think you have to start Luongo, and my reasoning is not because he’s the better goalie because in all honesty that could be debated all day. My reason is because Luongo is likely the goalie of the future for the Canucks. In reality, either Luongo or Schneider will be back next year, but not both, and it’s a lot harder to move Luongo and his contract than it is to move Schneider.
Game 4 is by far the most important game of the year for Vancouver, and it’s integral to put confidence in the goalie that will be your goalie for years to come. If the front office believes that will be Schneider, then by all means start him, but in reality Luongo will be the Canucks' goalie next year, and that’s why he needs to be their goalie for Game 4.