Is it too early to start a Cory Schneider for the Vezina Trophy campaign?
Vancouver could be entering an legitimate goalie controversy for the first time since Roberto Luongo was acquired on June 2006.
Despite a vocal minority of fans that routinely call for his head, Luongo's job as the starter seemed a lifetime appointment.
Luongo has never been sat in favour of his backup for more than a single game during his tenure with the Canucks. At least not until now.
Luongo last played in a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders, but sustained an upper body injury that forced him to the sidelines in subsequent games.
Schneider got off to a rocky start in filling Luongo's role, getting lit up 5-1 by the hated Chicago Blackhawks. However, the loss was more due to the skaters than the goalie.
After that game, Schneider has gone on a tear. Four consecutive starts and four wins; he was named the first star in each of those four games, and two of them were shutouts.
Schneider has stopped 117 of 120 shots during that span, including 43 saves during a rock star performance against the San Jose Sharks on Hockey Night in Canada. His stats for the week are an outstanding 0.975 save percentage and a microscopic 0.75 GAA.
Who should be the starter against Columbus?
For the year, Schneider has a record of 6-4-0, with a 2.02 GAA (eighth in the NHL) and a 0.931 save percentage (eighth in the NHL). His two shutouts puts him in sixth overall in the NHL for that category.
Conversely, Luongo has a record of 7-5-1, with a 2.97 GAA (36th in the NHL) and a 0.8.96 save percentage (39th in the NHL). He doesn't have a shutout yet.
When you consider that Schneider has suffered through two games where the Canucks skaters were shut out by the opposing goalie and Luongo has had one such game, the stats look even more skewed.
Accounting for those shutout games that weren't winnable no matter how the goalie played, Schneider is 6-2, and Luongo is 7-3-1.
Coach Alain Vigneault seems content to ride the hot hand right now.
"Louie is one of the most competitive players. Obviously, he wants to play, but knows Cory is playing well and he knows I'm going to do what's best for the team and that's not going to change." Vigneault told the Province newspaper prior to the Sharks game.
If that philosophy continues, expect to see Schneider in net for the fifth consecutive start against Columbus on Tuesday November 29th.
How long can Schneider keep up this high level of play? And how long will Luongo be content to ride the pine in favour of his ersatz back-up?