As he shook hands with the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo found himself in familiar territory. Once again, he was on the wrong end of a disappointing playoff series.
The only difference is that this time, it was after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and not the second round.
And while getting that far is great, the disappointment of losing when that close is, in many ways, far worse than bowing out in the first round.
The good news for the Vancouver Canucks is that they return the core of their President’s Trophy team, they can score and play defense and they have Roberto Luongo.
Luongo got them within one game of the Cup, but also got beat badly in the four losses digging up, once again, the question about his elite goaltender status.
Can Roberto Luongo rebound from his Stanley Cup performance?
Like his career in Vancouver, there was a lot to like about Luongo’s finals performance, and a lot that made you grimace and begin to wonder if he will ever win the big one.
In many ways, this is a rerun of the last two seasons in Vancouver. The Canucks had been bounced from the playoffs twice in the past two years at the hands of the Blackhawks. In each of those series, Luongo had some memorably bad games.
After those seasons, there was a growing contingent of fans and pundits who began to question out loud if Luongo was the man.
Luongo was not the sole reason Vancouver lost to Boston. But, with some pretty ugly and flat performances, he didn’t appear to put his team on his back…the way Tim Thomas did.
The debate will rage on across sports radio and Internet message boards. These playoff “disasters”are easy fodder for the anti-Luongo crowd, while the numbers support the pro-Luongo crowd.
His numbers are actually quite impressive.
His career goals-against average (GAA) in the regular season is 2.53, with a save percentage of .919. People like to point out that he is a great regular-season goalie, so those numbers don’t matter.
However, his career playoff numbers are nearly identical with a GAA of 2.50 and a save percentage of .917.
He’s been consistent throughout his career. What’s the problem then?
The problem is games like Game 3 in Boston, or Game 4, or Game 6, or the 2009-2010 playoffs, when he posted a save percentage of .895. Luongo is up and down; the up is great, but the down is pretty ugly.
Unfortunately, he seems to lay an egg at the biggest moments.
Despite that poor 2009-2010 playoff performance, Luongo rebounded.
He had his best season as a pro in 2010-2011, posting a stellar .928 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA. Luongo has proven he can rebound from a bad playoff performance.
With that being said, he has never had to rebound from losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Because of that, the scrutiny and questions will be greater. It will dog him all summer; his teammates, coaches and general manager will all be asked about it.
Will he be able to handle that extra criticism? Do the Canucks want to give him one more chance to carry the franchise? Can they even move him if they wanted to?
With the questions in the forefront again, he has a young, ready-to-go goaltender waiting in the wings in Cory Schneider.
Schneider seems to be the real deal; he is younger and cheaper and there will be an outcry to hand him the keys.
The further complication is Luongo’s contract. Any team interested in bringing him in is looking at 11 years remaining on his contract that comes with a $5.3 million cap hit.
General Manager Mike Gillis said in his postseason press conference that he wanted Cory Schneider to be on the team next season, despite the assumption the Canucks would move their biggest commodity.
Was that just general manager talk, or is Gillis not willing to move a hot goaltender because he is unsure of Luongo?
With a trade seeming a near impossibility, Gillis and the Vancouver Canucks are hopeful that Luongo can rebound from the Stanley Cup Finals, as they are stuck with him either way.
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