Cory Schneider's 44-save effort against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday was a statement game to the entire National Hockey League. He proved that he was not just an American Hockey League stud like Martin Brochu, but rather he is a legitimate future NHL starting goaltender.
The Canucks stopped playing for most of the third period, and Schneider had to stand on his head for his team. It didn't go unnoticed from head coach Alain Vigneault.
"Tonight you could say they were the better team on the ice," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "But at the end of the night, our goaltender kept us in the game and we found a way to win."
Schneider is now a remarkable 13-3-2 on the season, with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage—and it's not like Vigneault has been protecting him by starting him only against weaker teams.
He has not gone longer than seven games without a start. He has started games that Alain Vigneault traditionally did not give to backups Dany Sabourin, Curtis Sanford, Jason Labarbera and Andrew Raycroft.
Schneider has started against "tougher" opponents—and not just in back-to-back situations.
Heading into the 2010-11 season, Cory Schneider had appeared in 10 and started eight NHL games—compiling a record of 2-5-1, a 3.59 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage.
Schneider looked shaky and uncomfortable with the only exception, which was the game he started on November 6, 2009 against the Dallas Stars.
He turned aside 45 of 47 shots and looked like a NHL calibre goaltender—stopping Mike Ribeiro point blank in the slot and then Jamie Benn on a breakaway.
The other blemish on his NHL resume came December 7, 2008 when he was lit up in the shootout by the Colorado Avalanche's Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos and Milan Hejduk with relative ease.
This year, Schneider has built a remarkable NHL resume, showing that the Stars game was not an one-off, and that he can string together similar magnificent performances over the course of a NHL season.
He has shown that he has built a book on NHL shooters and that he can stop pucks in the skills competition—the shootout.
On Thursday night, he was perfect in the shootout between the Canucks and Sharks. He stopped shootout specialist Kyle Wellwood, Joe Pavelski (19 for 40 in his career) and Ryane Clowe (11 for 25 in his career).
While there is no best backup award, Cory Schneider could win the William M. Jennings Trophy with Roberto Luongo if he plays in five more games. The trophy is awarded to the goaltender(s) that have played at least 25 games, of the team that allows the fewest goals.
The Canucks on the year have allowed 157 goals, which is second to the Nashville Predators' 155, so it is definitely within reach with 13 games left in the season.
By not trading Schneider in the offseason, the Canucks have an insurance policy in the playoffs if Luongo—knock on wood—gets injured.
Dwayne Roloson had been sensational for the Edmonton Oilers during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, but he was unable to continue after Game One in which he suffered an MCL sprain.
The injury ocurred when Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrew Ladd fell on him after taking a cross check from Oilers defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Some hockey pundits believe the Oilers could have won the Stanley Cup that year if the team did not have to rely on journeyman goaltenders Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen for the entire Stanley Cup Final series.
By holding onto Schneider for one more season and giving him an opportunity to build a NHL resume, his stock has also risen dramatically.
With little NHL experience, by trading, it's likely the Canucks wouldn't have been able to recoup the first-round pick spent on him in 2004. The Canucks would have been lucky to get a second- or third-round pick.
Where will Cory Schneider land next season?
The Canucks are expected to trade Schneider this offseason, and they will be able to recoup that late first-round pick—if not more.
There will be plenty of teams looking to add a potential franchise goaltender, especially in the Eastern Conference where the Canucks would like to trade him to.
The Ottawa Senators have been looking for a number one goaltender since Patrick Lalime and the failed Dominik Hasek experiment. In the upcoming draft, they hold two first-round picks and three second-round picks, so they may be willing to unload Nashville's first for Schneider.
Depending on if the Florida Panthers re-sign Tomas Vokoun or not, they may have interest in Schneider as well. The New Jersey Devils could be looking for a goaltender if Martin Brodeur, who will be 39 on May 9, chooses to retire.
Dave Nonis was the Canucks general manager in 2004, and if the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have complete confidence in James Reimer, they could make a move for Schneider.
Lastly, the Tampa Bay Lighting could also be interested, if Dwayne Rolson retires or if they choose not to pit their playoff hopes on a 42-year old goaltender.
It should be interesting—will Schneider get into any games in the playoffs, and what kind of assets will he fetch in the offseason?