2011 NHL Playoffs: Is Roberto Luongo the X-Factor for the Canucks?
Normally, the title of an X-factor in sports is given to a player who is underrated yet can make huge contributions when his or her team needs it the most. With that being said, can the title of an X-factor be given to an Olympic gold medalist who is at the top of most goaltending statistics?
Well, in Roberto Luongo's case, it just might be his title to hold.
The Vancouver Canucks netminder is entering his fourth Stanley Cup playoff appearance and the Jennings Trophy winner is up against a familiar foe. A foe that has given Luongo fits for the past two playoff seasons, ultimately labeling Luongo as a non-playoff performer.
That foe is the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has eliminated the Canucks the previous two seasons. A team that Luongo posted a dismal 4-8 record against in the playoffs.
But this year could be different. Luongo is no longer the man in charge of this playoff push. The team in front of the Montreal native is the best in the league.
In years past, Luongo would have to be "the man" if the Canucks had a chance in the playoffs.
Fast-forward to this postseason and the team from Vancouver has never looked so deep. The Canucks now have back-to-back Art Ross Trophy winners in their lineup, playing on the first line.
Here's a hint for you guys, they're twins. Move down to the second line and you have yourself a possible Selke Trophy winner in Ryan Kesler, who also notched in 41 goals.
Vancouver is also entering the playoffs with quite possibly the deepest top-six defensive core in the league. This top six includes Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard who were brought to bring more physicality to the Canucks back end. That factor could play a huge part into a deep run in the playoffs.
The amazing part of the Canucks top-six D-men is that they only played one game together. That was Game 82 against the Flames. Yet, the Canucks allowed the least amount of goals in the league.
This is were Luongo becomes the X-factor. The man in between the pipes has a team that is capable of winning games without having to worry about amazing goaltending every single game.
With that being said, what if Luongo was able to play at the top of his game night in and night out?
This year's version of the playoffs could easily be the time for Luongo to break out into the playoff scene.
Luongo is now more rested then ever and has had possibly the best season of his career. Luongo has rarely looked fazed and hasn't allowed the "bad goal" in which fans are used to in Vancouver.
He has also had a quiet push from backup standout Cory Schneider who has played superb all season long.
Luongo is also coming into this year's postseason playing a new style under new goaltending coach Rollie Melanson. Luongo has worked hard this year and is poised to make a run this postseason.
This is a new Luongo. The once "overrated" netminder is now "underrated" in many eyes and that could be the best news for the Canucks. Luongo can simply focus on his game more than ever before.
The spotlight has been taken off Luongo and has been spread throughout the lineup. This team no longer has to rely on Luongo to win, they must win as a team.
Luongo being an X-factor doesn't take away his skill or his contributions to this team. It just makes him and this organization that more dangerous.
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