Up until Thursday night, I laughed at those who suggested the Vancouver Canucks had a goalie controversy on their hands.
Clearly those people haven’t looked up the definition of the word “controversy.” It’s defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as, “A discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views.”
Were there any opposing views to Cory Schneider continually starting over Roberto Luongo, even after Luongo was deemed healthy enough to play? If there was, I didn’t hear them. How can you not continue to play a goaltender after he posts back-to-back shutouts, or after he stops 43 of 45 shots or even 47 of 48 shots?
It was impossible for head coach Alain Vigneault to sit Schneider in favour of Luongo during the hot streak that Schneider went through over the last week. As long as we’re still in the early stages of the regular season, I think most coaches would have continued starting the unheralded Chris Levesque if he had posted back-to-back shutouts and then stopped 90 of his next 93 shots.
The only way there could have potentially been a goaltending controversy in Vancouver is if Vigneault had opted to go back to Luongo on multiple occasions in the midst of Schneider’s unbelievable play. Only then would there have been a debate in Canucks nation over the goaltending situation.
The reality of the Canucks situation between the pipes is that they boast arguably the best one-two goaltending punch in the entire NHL. This has been the case ever since Schneider proved he was worthy of being drafted in the first round with his stellar play last season. There’s no controversy in a situation like that.
However, after Thursday night’s fiasco against the Nashville Predators, I am reminded that every hot streak comes to an end eventually, and Schneider is not the goaltending god many fans thought he was.
I’ve also come to the realization that it may take Luongo a few games to back into his groove again. Most Canucks fans know that Luongo usually needs a few weeks at the start of each season before he finds his All-Star form, so now that he’s gone three weeks without starting a game, he might be back to square one in terms of his progression this season.
Then again, I could be wrong. The Canucks have always had a knack for proving the prognosticators wrong and they’ve also had a number of bizarre moments while playing host to the Nashville Predators.
As if allowing six goals on just 20 shots to a previously goal-starved Predators team wasn’t strange enough, the Canucks also allowed some horribly unlucky goals against the Predators at Rogers Arena during their second-round playoff series last spring.
For example, here’s the first goal that Luongo gave up in that series after shutting out the Predators for nearly a full 120 minutes in Games 1 and 2.
Now, here’s another strange goal courtesy of David Legwand in Game 5 of that same series where Nashville scored four goals on just 23 shots.
If that wasn’t enough, there was also the game on January 11, 2010, where referee Stephane Auger allegedly got his revenge on Alex Burrows for an incident in a previous game. Auger handed Burrows 16 penalty minutes in the third period, which eventually led to the winning goal by the Predators that night. Now that was a real controversy.
So maybe Thursday’s outcome is just another one of those strange home games against the Predators and won’t have any impact on the Canucks and their two goaltenders going forward. It may just be a harsh reminder that no goaltender is immune to a bad game every now and then.
However, even if the smiles were wiped off the faces of Canucks nation for one game, there is still nothing that remotely resembles a goaltending controversy in Vancouver.
Look at the New York Islanders if you want a goaltending controversy. They’ve been forced to sign one or more former NHL starting goalies in each of the last three seasons thanks to their lack of faith in Rick DiPietro. This is the same Rick DiPietro who will continue to earn $4.5 million annually for the next 10 years. Yikes!
Choosing the No. 1 goaltender in Vancouver might not be the easiest decision as we move forward in the 2011-12 season, but at least there are two elite goaltenders to choose from as opposed to being stuck with someone you’re not sure about.