After spending the offseason trying to trade starting goaltender Roberto Luongo (h/t Jason Botchford of The Vancouver Province), the Vancouver Canucks were forced to start the lockout-shortened 2013 season with the veteran on the bench.
With young star Cory Schneider getting the nod as the team’s No. 1 goalie heading into Vancouver's first game against the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night, Luongo was the perfect teammate and did not cause a distraction or make a scene (h/t The Vancouver Province).
Luongo had every intention of staying out of the limelight on opening night, but after Schneider allowed five goals on 14 shots, the Canucks pulled the starter and put Luongo in the game. The veteran allowed two goals on 12 shots in relief, and the team lost 7-3.
UPDATE: Sunday, Jan. 20, 2:20 p.m. ET by Donald Wood
The Vancouver Canucks have chosen to go with veteran netminder Roberto Luongo as Sunday's starter in the second matchup of back-to-back games, according to the team’s official Twitter account:
---End of update---
While the veteran was going to get chances to play during the season as long as he was in Vancouver, most NHL fans expected Luongo to see action as the season progressed instead of the second period of the first game.
It didn’t take long for this storyline to get convoluted, but as odd as this situation has been, the Canucks could be the biggest winners in this struggle.
With 48 games in 99 days (h/t USAToday), every team and player in the NHL will be dealing with fatigue as the season progresses, and that includes goaltenders.
The short schedule will result in more starts for backup goalies across the league, and there are few teams with two bona fide starters like the Canucks have right now.
While Schneider and Luongo’s performances Saturday night didn’t make them look like top stars in the NHL, it’s the first game of the season and there will always be rust. As long as they each bounce back with a strong performance, the duo could be a real asset to Vancouver.
The Canucks are lucky they haven't been able to trade Luongo yet, and they should wait to make a deal until they see more from Schneider in the regular season.
Either way, the Canucks are in an admirable spot; there are teams in the NHL without a viable No. 1 goalie, let alone two.