Luongo Sidelined; the Canucks are Reeling
When the Vancouver Canucks take on the LA Kings in tonight’s pivotal game three of their first-round series Canucks goaltender Corey Schneider will get the start. This moves all-star netminder Roberto Luongo to the bench in a move makes little sense, not that it is unexpected. It is just another move in a long line of confusing decisions from head coach Alain Vigneault this season. The Canucks have had many opportunities to throw their support behind their number one netminder this year and give him a chance to prove he is the unquestioned starter but it never totally happened.
For me it all starts just after the new year when the Canucks were slated to play a much hyped match-up against their heated rival Bruins in Boston, on a Saturday no less. Even though they play in opposite conferences they are heated rivals for one reason; the Bruins took the Cup from the Canucks in 7 games last spring. In that series Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was shell-shocked in every start he had in Boston. Adding to the significance of this game is the fact it was their only match-up of the season and both teams were on fire. The Canucks were in a familiar spot on top of the Western Conference and the Bruins looked to be there soon in the east, being on an incredible 23-4 run. This was a chance to make a statement for the Canucks, that the team and their goalie we’re not afraid of the Bruins. Instead they started Corey Schneider who earned a 4-3 win for his squad. In spite of the win I was confused by the decision. If Luongo is really your number one goalie then he must get the start in these types of games.
Returning from the all-star break later that same month the Canucks after the long all-star break layoff played a critical game against the hated Blackhawks. Each of the last two seasons these teams faced off in classic playoff match-ups, with each team taking one series. Luongo had started the last 5 games for the Canucks but he did not get the call in this game. I thought it was odd the Canucks would not play their number one goalie against a hated foe. At this point I was brimming with questions. Was Luongo really their #1? We’re they trying to protect him? If you can’t start him against the leagues best now what happens come playoff time? If Corey Schneider has the confidence of the coach and the team then why not make him the #1 goaltender?
Here we are now, two games into the 2012 post-season the Canucks find themselves in an 0-2 hole in the series and Luongo finds himself on the bench. I don’t think there are many who believe Luongo has been the issue with the teams fortunes these last two games. In fact in game one he appeared to be the only reason the Canucks were in the game so late. None the less he has been undermined already. The timing of the move is curious. I have nothing against Corey Schneider and I expect him to play well in his opportunity to start. However, the decisions earlier in the season lead me to believe Vigneault may have been itching to make the move to Schneider as the starter. If so, then why would he wait until the playoffs to make such a move? There is no doubt there was sufficient pressure on Luongo throughout the season that if Vigneault had have made such a move it would have been accepted.
It is tough to support the way Vigneault has made his decisions this season and his team may feel the same way. As we sit on the brink of game three I find it hard to believe that if Alain Vigneault thinks Corey Schneider is the best goalie for his team tonight that he didn’t feel the same way two games ago.