Vancouver Canucks vs. Detroit Red Wings: Roberto Luongo Passes Playoff Audition

Jeff TaylorContributor IMarch 24, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 08:  Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on March 8, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canucks defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In what was a potential Western Conference Finals match-up, Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks prevailed Wednesday night over the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1.

Luongo made 39 saves, and new father Daniel Sedin scored both goals to move the Canucks 10 points up on the Red Wings with eight games to go in the season.

Both teams played with holes in their starting lineups. The Canucks were without Alexander Edler, Mikael Samuelsson and Manny Malhotra among notables. The Red Wings dressed up sans Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen. Nonetheless both teams played solidly despite the absences.

In particular, the goaltenders stood out. In addition to Luongo's gem, Detroit's Jimmy Howard was strong stopping 31 of 33 shots, but there is no question though that Luongo was the star of the game.

Neither team wanted to go all in by saying this was a statement game. In some ways though, it was for Luongo, who despite his impressive season continues to be doubted regarding his playoff composure.

In what was close to a playoff-like atmosphere, Luongo was rock solid against Detroit, especially in the first period. While the Canucks had a slow opening frame, the Red Wings came out hard.

Detroit deserved to be in the lead after the opening period, but Luongo kept his team in the game. One of his biggest stops was against Darren Helm who had a short-handed break away late in the first period.

Vancouver eventually came to life, but even with the lead Luongo continued to stone the Wings. Although his shutout bid ended late in the third period, Luongo made 16 saves in the final frame and denied the Wings comeback attempt.

Detroit arguably deserved to win last night. They were the better team overall, and even with key players missing from their lineup, their effort would have won most games.

Roberto Luongo made sure it would be the Canucks walking out of Joe Louis Arena with two points.

From start to finish, Luongo looked in top form. A good omen for Vancouver and it's fans. With eight games left in their schedule, the Canucks only play two teams currently holding a playoff spot. Not much time left to tune up against playoff caliber clubs.

With so few games remaining and the Canucks already locked in to a playoff spot, it's unclear how often Luongo will suit up. In trying to keep their key players healthy and rested, it's possible that backup Cory Schneider will see the majority of playing time in the final games.

The Canucks know that in order to win the Stanley Cup, they will need their goalie to put up more spectacular performances against the NHL's top teams. Detroit is among the league's elite and last night, Roberto's poise and composure looked steady.

In what was perhaps as big an audition as possible for Luongo to inspire confidence in his play come playoffs, he easily passed with flying colors last night. If Luongo puts forth similar efforts this post-season, Vancouver will be virtually unbeatable.