Are the Canucks making a bad gamble by tweaking Roberto Luongo's style?

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luongodeep.jpgIt’s one thing to tweak the way a hitter swings a baseball bat or to ask a basketball player to stop chucking ill-advised three-point shots, but it’s a whole other beast to ask someone to fundamentally change the way they function when they’ve operated that way up to the professional level. Just look at when an NFL team tries to change a quarterback’s throwing motion; you can justify the concept, but there’s a fine line between coaching a player and trying to impose an unnatural change.

Most of the time, sporting leopards cannot change their spots.

This is an elaborate way of saying that I’m a little skeptical about the wisdom in Vancouver Canucks’ goalie coach Rollie Melanson (great name, by the way) asking Roberto Luongo to adjust his goaltending style by staying deeper in his crease instead of challenging shooters. Let’s look at what Luongo said about the alterations in The Province.

On Wednesday, Luongo unveiled the first of the tweaks to his game initiated since working with new goalie coach Rollie Melanson. And it was not insignificant. For years, Luongo has thrived by being out and in front of his crease to both challenge and intimidate.

Melanson, whose star student is Jaroslav Halak, wants to see Luongo deeper in his crease; to play in the blue specifically during half-court play.

It would allow Luongo a better chance to position himself for back door plays and second chances without having to lunge as often as he did during last season’s playoffs. Meticulous about routine, Luongo has opened himself up to the idea.

“The adjustments have to make sense to me for me to do it and they do,” Luongo said.

“It’s going to be a process to get used to some of those things but I’m willing to learn, I’m willing to give it a shot. Hopefully it will improve my game.

“Anything to make my game better, I’m willing to try it. I probably have three more games this preseason to work on the process.”

timtebow.jpgIt’s great that Luongo is willing to part with some of the techniques that helped him earn a huge lifetime contract and plenty of league-wide acclaim after his confidence was shaken this season. I’m also willing to admit that I am far from an expert on goalies; perhaps this isn’t as drastic as a change as it sounds like.

My instinct is to say that this might be a shaky process, though. Luongo’s future isn’t Tim Tebow-murky, but I’d say it would be better if the Canucks let him be who he is. Then again, Melanson and the Canucks are paid to make these kinds of bold decisions. We’ll just have to wait and see which school of thought makes more sense this season, then.

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.