Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo: A Vezina Type Season on the Horizon?
Since arriving in Vancouver in 2006, much has been written and spoken about the Canucks captain. If you look very carefully, one cannot deny his consistency since the 1999 season, when he joined the New York Islanders as an unproven rookie.
Not once since that time, whether it was in the NHL or AHL, has Roberto Luongo's save percentage gone below .900. In fact, the closet to that magic number was in the 1999-2000 season (New York) when he finished with a .904.
Now if he had played on a team other than the Florida Panthers he may have reached a 30 win season, but due to that circumstance this was not achieved until his last season in Florida, when he went 35-30 with a .914 save percentage.
This was about to change when he was traded to Vancouver. Since arriving he has shown his ability which is evidenced by his stats.
Over four seasons Luongo has played in 271 games for an average of 68 games a season, a .918 save percentage, 2.39 GAA, 39W, 22L and six shut-outs. This is one reason that he has been placed in the category of the top five goaltenders in the NHL.
There are many, (including myself) who have repeatedly said that yes, he has impressive stats but he has never taken the team beyond round two in the playoffs.
It’s the old adage: He may be a good player in the regular season but it’s the playoffs that really define one.
The pressure and expectation to win in this market has been at the pinnacle since 1982 when the Canucks gave the fans a titillating taste of Stanley Cup fever and in case they had forgotten, again in 1994.
Since then and especially since 2000, the expectations have mounted again. Now more recently with the arrival of two top four D-men in Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard, this is going to intensify even more.
What should now be affirmed is his consistency, but it should also be expected that with a back-end that has been reinforced, he should be looking at setting new highs and establishing career numbers.
The offensive output from last season does not look like it will diminish, and in fact from my last article, it looks like it could still be even more productive. Throw in the probability of a top Western Conference defensive core and how can one not be optimistic that Luongo will rise to the peak?
Chicago proved last season that a strong defense and depth throughout the forward lines can lead down the path to the Stanley Cup.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not planning a Cup parade. What I am saying is—with the right pieces to the puzzle—this team, led by Luongo, can finally achieve their expectations.
There is still some tweaking to be done before the season begins in a number of areas but Luongo must be feeling very positive about the coming season, with the understanding that this will be the best team that he has ever played on in the NHL.
I have a feeling that this will be the season that Bobby Lou will prove to all the nay-sayers how wrong they really were!
Watch Luongo's great save off Chicago's Ben Eager: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvyqkYmJWHg
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