Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo Was Not the Problem in the Playoffs

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Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo Was Not the Problem in the Playoffs
Rich Lam/Getty Images

Roberto Luongo is a very polarizing figure in Vancouver.

A majority, or at least a very vocal minority, of fans want to run him out of town.

Some fans have had their opinions turned around by the wit of his Twitter account. Others never lost faith in the best goalie Vancouver has ever been graced with.

It is troubling to see, however, that the vocal Luongo haters think that he is the only reason the Canucks didn’t win a Stanley Cup in 2011-12. This is also a common meme for the media that doesn't follow the team on a regular basis.

To them, Luongo was the reason the Canucks lost to the Kings in the first round of last year's playoffs. And even Team Canada only won gold at the 2010 Olympics in spite of Luongo.

The thought goes that, if only he could be traded out of town—even for draft picks or prospects rather than roster players—the Canucks would surely win with Cory Schneider in net. And if Schneider would have been in net for those other series, the Canucks would have won the Cup.

I can understand the visceral response of fans. Sports are largely about passion and emotion, not logic, and we invest significantly in our teams. 

But blaming Luongo and holding him up as a scapegoat just doesn’t work if you separate emotion from logic and look at the facts. It turns a blind eye to the real problem facing the Canucks in the playoffs.

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The Canucks didn’t lose to the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup final because of goaltending. They lost because they couldn’t score goals.

The same holds true for the 2012 first-round upset to the L.A. Kings.

Over their last 12 playoff games, the Canucks have scored a grand total of 16 goals.

That is a pathetic 1.33 goals per game.

To put that into perspective, the Canucks scored 3.15 goals per game in the 2010-11 regular season. They scored a slightly lesser 2.94 goals per game in the 2011-12 regular season. In both seasons, they were in the top five in the NHL for scoring.

But the cliche is that goals are harder to come by the playoffs, so let's look at some playoff stats.

If you exclude the Stanley Cup final, the Canucks scored 50 goals in 18 games through the first three rounds in 2011 against Chicago, Nashville and San Jose. That is a 2.77 goals-per-game pace. 

Then they went to the finals and only scored eight goals in seven games, a 1.14 goals-per-game pace.

Against the Kings in their five-game series last spring, the Canucks did slightly better, scoring eight goals in five games, which equals 1.6 goals per game.

Rich Lam/Getty Images

Historically, even at the height of the dead-puck era, defensive-minded teams scored more goals as they clutched and grabbed their way to the Stanley Cup.

In 1999, the Dallas Stars scored 2.70 goals per game (slightly less if you are a Sabres fan) in support of Ed Belfour.

In 2000, the New Jersey Devils scored 2.61 goals per game for Martin Brodeur. In 2003, they scored 2.58.

Luongo and Schneider are getting a paltry 1.33 goals per game from their skaters. 

That's right, the flagship teams of the dead-puck era clutched and trapped their way to roughly double the number of goals per game the Canucks have managed in their last two playoff series.

Only once in the last two playoff series have the Canucks scored more than two goals in regulation. And they have been shut out three times in that span. Hardly what you’d expect from a team that is supposed to be skilled and offensive-minded.

Cory Schneider had a very telling quote in The Province recently: “As a group, Roberto (Luongo), Rollie (Melanson, goalie coach) and myself, we expect two or fewer goals every night.”

The unspoken part of that quote is the expectation that the forwards have to score more than two goals a night if the team wants to win. 

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They just aren’t scoring, at even strength or on the power play.

That is hardly the fault of goalie, no matter who is in net. If the goalie has to pitch a shutout for the team to win because it scores fewer than two goals on average, then the problem isn’t the goalie.

Over the last 12 playoff games, Luongo has a 3-6 record and Schneider has 1-2 record.

Both times the Canucks scored more than two goals, once in regulation against the Kings and once in overtime against the Bruins, the team won.

The other two wins came in 1-0 games in the Stanley Cup final, when Luongo held the fort and pitched a shutout to steal games the Canucks didn't deserve to win.

Maybe Luongo has to be traded so the Canucks can have a better chance at the Stanley Cup. But that will be because they need to move an asset in goal to upgrade the skaters, not because the problem was in goal in the first place.

And if GM Mike Gillis doesn't fix the scoring problems, it doesn't matter how Schneider plays compared to Luongo, because the team won't win in the playoffs.

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