Changing of the Guard? Luongo Emerges as Heir to Brodeur's Throne

Nick HealeyCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2007

Icon The Vancouver Canucks won 5-0 last night in a lopsided affair against the usually stingy defense of the New Jersey Devils.

The Canucks earned the win largely because Roberto Luongo was back in the lineup after returning from a rib injury. Luongo, who had not played since December 8th, was very solid as he posted a 32 save shutout for the 37th of his career and the 5th of the season.

Martin Brodeur on the other hand, was not so solid in net as he struggled in a performance that matched his season high of 5 goals allowed while only facing 24 shots from an offense not normally known for its explosive play.

Judging by Brodeur's career numbers and his current standing in the All-Star voting, it doesn't make much sense to write him off just yet. But this game that showcased two of the league's marquee goaltenders leads one to question whether or not Luongo is emerging as the future face of goaltending in the NHL, as Brodeur's career enters its twilight years.

There is no question that Brodeur remains an elite goalie in the league right now, and undoubtedly will go down in history as being one of the best ever—especially since his career shutout numbers recently started to push the legendary Terry Sawchuk's aside. However, as the "New NHL" is evolving into a faster game with more goals, and more talented shooters finding more ways to score, good goaltending is going to always be at a premium. And goalies with game-changing abilities like Luongo are becoming harder and harder to find.

Luongo is still a ways off from establishing himself as being an NHL legend like Brodeur. But his career .920 save percentage is a good indicator of his potential for success, especially considering most of his career to this point was spent guarding the nets for a pathetic Florida Panthers team.   

This debate is likely to re-emerge in the future, when Team Canada has to reach into its incredibly deep talent pool and decide which of its many goalies to go with for the 2010 Olympics.

The popular choice for the last few Olympics has been Brodeur, but after Luongo out-duelled him last night in Vancouver, it appears as though his monopoly on the national goaltending job may be coming to an end. While others like Marty Turco will certainly be in the mix, last night's performance by Luongo, both statistically and symbolically, would seem to have put Luongo into the running to take over the job.

It's maybe a bit early to be determining things like this for the 2010 Olympics, and to take one game as the determining factor would be ridiculous. But Brodeur's struggles last night, accompanied by Luongo's stellar play, was certainly an indicator that Team Canada and the NHL are about to experience an inevitable change in their goaltending futures.