For the second straight playoff game, the Vancouver Canucks were not even worthy of being in the same building as the Chicago Blackhawks. A 7-2 blow-out loss in Game 4 of the series was followed by a 5-0 meltdown in Game 5.
However, the Canucks still lead the best-of-seven-series 3-2. Now normally when a team is ahead in the series, there’s not much cause for concern. But when you lose the way the Canucks have lost recently, it raises some eyebrows.
Many fans and members of the media were wondering if perhaps a change in goal would occur for Game 6 on Sunday. After all, Roberto Luongo has given up 10 goals in the last two games on just 40 shots. He’s also been pulled in both of those games in favour of back-up Cory Schneider.
But Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault answered with a sharp and curt, “Yes” when asked if Luongo would still be the starter in the next game. End of discussion. But should it be?
After all, the Canucks took pride in having Luongo and Schneider share the Jennings Trophy this season. This award is only given to the goaltenders that play in at least 25 games for the team that gives up the least amount of goals in the regular season. So what’s the point of taking pride in having two elite goalies on your roster if you won’t even consider starting one of them when the other one isn’t playing well enough?
Of course, Luongo can’t be blamed entirely for the two blow-out losses. The majority of goals scored against him have not been his fault and the Canucks so-called deep defensive core looked extremely lethargic in the last two games. But he did let in some untimely bad goals that seemed to cause the confidence of his teammates to shatter. Plus, when you have a back-up as capable as Schneider, you have to wonder if Vigneault should have put more thought into this important decision.
In his 25 appearances for the Canucks this season, Schneider actually had a better save percentage and winning percentage than Luongo. It’s also worth noting that the Canucks seemed to play many of their best and most dominating games of the season with Schneider in net. It was almost as if they wanted to prove they could win without Luongo between the pipes so badly that it gave them extra motivation. Perhaps that extra motivation is exactly what they need going into Game 6.
At the very least, the Canucks need a change. It’s been proven over the regular season that they’re an extremely talented and capable group of players, so one can only assume the main reason for their collapse over the last two games is mental. Changing the psyche of the locker room by starting Schneider in net could be exactly what the Canucks need to feel like Sunday’s game is a fresh start.
But what if it doesn’t work? What if, despite his strong regular season numbers and solid performances in relief of Luongo in the last two playoff games, Schneider doesn’t play up to par in Game 6? The answer is simple. You go back to Luongo for Game 7 and you still have a chance to win the series. No harm, no foul. But if you start Luongo in Game 6 and he has another shaky performance causing the rest of the team to collapse around him, now the possibility of starting Schneider in the next game is even more risky because it’s Game 7.
You can make arguments for both goalies starting the next game for the Vancouver Canucks. They are both talented and they both had incredible stats during the regular season. But given the last two performances from Roberto Luongo and the team in front of him, it may have been worth it for Alain Vigneault to put a little more thought into the decision of who to start between the pipes this Sunday.