Stanley Cup Finals: Can Roberto Luongo Win the Big One?

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Stanley Cup Finals: Can Roberto Luongo Win the Big One?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Luongo has long been questioned if he can win the big game. His career numbers and achievements are very good. He is a three-time Vezina finalist as the league’s top goalie, has a Hart Trophy win as the league MVP and this year added the William Jennings trophy for lowest goals against average by a team. He also has done well on the international stage, as he led the Canadians to a gold medal in the last Olympics.

His career stats show some impressive numbers:

 

 

Active player rank

All-time rank

Wins

308

4

21

Loses

269

-

-

Goals against

2.53

9

31

Save %

0.919

-

-

Shutouts

55

2

18

 

The knock on Luongo is that these are only great regular season numbers. He spent a season with the New York Islanders, then was shipped off to the Florida Panthers. Neither team was a contender in any way, so while he posted good numbers and in 2003-04 even set the NHL record for shots faced and saves made during a season, none of those numbers really happened in pressure situations.

Moved to Vancouver, he was now placed in a more high pressure situation with big expectations. They have won their division in four of Luongo’s five seasons with the team, yet this was the first season that they made it past the second round with Luongo in net. Going into this season, he was only 17-17 come playoff time.

This season’s playoffs started with major expectations. The Canucks won the President’s Trophy and were far-and-away the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. All seemed to go well as they jumped out to a three-game lead in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Then the wheels fell off. Luongo gave up ten goals in less than two games. After being pulled in both those contests, he lost his starting job for Game 6. He did end up coming into the game when new starter Cory Schneider went down with an injury. Luongo ended up giving up a goal in overtime, forcing a Game 7.

He bounced back in Game 7, only allowing one goal in the team’s win. Finally winning a big game seemed to give him confidence as he rolled through the next two rounds and the first two games of the finals with very little problems.

Game 3 was ugly, as he allowed eight goals on 38 shots. While it is never good to have such a bad game in the Stanley Cup Finals, the bigger question was if he could bounce back in the next game. 

Well, in Game 4, he lost it again. He gave up four goals before being pulled after 43 minutes.

Now all eyes will turn to Canucks coach Alain Vigneault as he will decide how much faith he has in Luongo to bounce back. Will he stick with Luongo for Game 5, or go with Cory Schneider?

The biggest part of goaltending is the physical play, but the mental aspect is also very important. The pucks whizzing by Luongo are obviously in his head, but the bigger mental part may come from the guy guarding the opposite net.

Tim Thomas has been a beast this season, regular and playoffs. He led the league in GAA with 2.00. He has a .965 save percentage in the finals so far.

With that much dominance sitting across the ice, Luongo knows that he needs to be nearly flawless for his team to have a chance. Playing with that small an error window so far has proven to be too much for Luongo to handle.

Against most other teams, and their goalies, Luongo would be able to bounce back. But with the shadow of Thomas looming large and the weight of 40 years of Vancouver disappointments on his shoulders, the cracks that Luongo has shown will be too difficult to overcome. Of course that assumes that he will get another shot to play. If not, he will increase his legacy of being only a great regular-season goalie.

 

 

Career Stats and active/all time rankings found at http://www.sportscity.com/nhl/

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