Since defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks have been hell-bent on shedding their reputation for choking in big games.
Until Monday night, they had done a fantastic job, as they made quick work of the Predators and Sharks in the previous two rounds, and had put Boston in a two games-to-none hole entering game three.
However, the wheels fell off for Luongo and the Canucks in a hurry, as Boston thoroughly dominated Vancouver from start to finish. While the Canucks still lead the series, the Bruins seemed to rally around star forward Nathan Horton’s injury and have all the momentum heading into game four, which is not good if you’re Roberto Luongo.
The issue with Luongo is that while he is among the best netminders in the world, he does not have the greatest track record in big game situations. By the time Game 3 had ended, Luongo’s confidence was clearly shaken, which is not an encouraging sign for the Canucks.
Luongo is certainly capable of bouncing back, but how easy will it be for him to regain his swagger after surrendering eight goals on 38 shots?
Granted, not all of the goals were his fault, but his performance was average at best. If there’s one thing we have learned from previous Stanley Cup Finals, it’s that teams don’t win in the playoffs with simply average goaltending.
If Vancouver is going to win two out of the next four games, Luongo will need to play exceptionally well, like he did for the first two games. At the other end of the rink, Tim Thomas has played like the two-time Vezina nominee that he is, making the saves that are expected of him, and some others that are not.
Top-to-bottom, the Canucks are too good of a team to get beat by seven goals, and Luongo is too talented a goalie to get lit up eight times. If he wants to finally silence his critics, he must play a much better game on Wednesday.
True, the Canucks lost this game as a team, but Luongo has to take more pride in his game, even when the score is lopsided. During this postseason alone, Luongo has allowed at least four goals in five of the seven games he’s lost, which is a troubling statistic.
When his game is on, Luongo is virtually unbeatable, but when he does get scored on, it usually happens in bunches.
Fortunately for Luongo and the Canucks, they have a shot at redemption tomorrow night, and their Stanley Cup hopes may hinge on whether they can bounce back from a dreadful Game 3 performance.