Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo Continues to Prove Critics Wrong in Playoffs

Alex GallantContributor IMay 25, 2011

Luongo's exceptional performance propelled the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final.
Luongo's exceptional performance propelled the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final.Rich Lam/Getty Images

In a dramatic, action packed Game 5, the Vancouver Canucks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in double overtime to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994. There, they will have the opportunity to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Throughout these 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks have encountered some tough match-ups that too often resulted in some tense moments for their fans. Whether it was the Game 7 OT game against Chicago in the first round, or this come from behind victory to advance to the Cup finals, the Canucks have continuously overcome these obstacles.

There have been numerous players on the team that have contributed to the success of the Canucks, but all have paled in comparison to netminder Roberto Luongo.

In his career — mainly during his tenure in Vancouver — Luongo has been heavily criticized by the media for not living up to his immense contract. Analysts have noted in past playoff runs that Luongo cannot get over the hump and win the big game. He always seemed to fall apart in the limelight and give up several goals in critical moments.

This year, however, Luongo seems to have an aura of confidence about him. Granted, he has gone through a couple of rough patches where his skills seemingly disappeared, but those are few and far between in comparison to past years.

All the progress Roberto Luongo has made culminated with a spectacular, 54-save performance in Game 5 Tuesday night. The Sharks relentless pressure in the offensive zone was a worrisome sight to coach Alain Vigneault and fans alike. But Luongo stymied the Sharks' efforts on numerous occasions, allowing his team to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation and then win it in double overtime.

Luongo's new-found confidence and success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs can without question be attributed to his performance as the starting goaltender in the Gold Medal Game at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In his home arena, with the pressure of the entire country on him, Luongo came up with key save after key save, propelling Canada to a thrilling victory over the United States.

With this performance came a resounding vote of confidence from Canucks fans and Canadians alike. They now feel that Luongo had the ability to show up on the big stage and put out an outstanding performance.

A year and three months later, that performance has resonated once again in the minds of Canucks fans, as they were able to witness a similar feat in Game 5. Luongo stepped up his game, and as a result, the Canucks are four wins away from their first Stanley Cup.