When you look at things from the perspective of a substantial chunk of hockey fans, Roberto Luongo is a failure. They forget how strong he was in Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks, remembering the trouble that came before that triumph. Their memories gloss over some great performances against the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks while likely deleting Luongo’s two shutouts and three home wins in the Stanley Cup finals, fast-forwarding straight to his four (often ugly) losses.
To them, Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals told the whole story about Roberto Luongo.
Yet if you try to get inside of the man in Vancouver’s net, the perspective changes substantially. He came into the league with some high expectations – and according to some metrics – he’s backed up his high draft status with big league results. After being traded from the New York Islanders and toiling away with the Florida Panthers, Luongo might tell you he’s made good on the hype that followed him around once he became the Vancouver Canucks go-to goalie. (He also has that gold medal from the 2010 Olympics to soothe his soul, by the way.)
There are plenty of Canucks fans who will call for Luongo’s head (and probably the matching noggins of the Sedin twins as well) after that 4-0 embarrassment, but his expensive contract will make a trade very unlikely. Despite that brutal loss, Luongo seemed resolute when talking about the team’s future while his teammates came to his defense.
“We’re devastated, but we’re a good team and we’ll be back,” said the dejected Luongo, his voice breaking slightly as he fought back tears.
“As a team if we all could have stepped up a notch, starting with myself, we could have got the job done,” Luongo said. “We’re devastated as a team. We worked all year to get to this point and to fall short like that is a tough one to take. It’s a team game, we’re not going to point fingers at one individual.”
Luongo certainly doesn’t shoulder all the blame.
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin had one point in the Cup finals, twin brother Daniel had four, and the winners of the last two scoring titles were on the ice for all four goals in Game 7. Both came quickly to Luongo’s defense.
“We scored zero goals today,” Daniel Sedin said. “So if you want to blame guys, blame all the guys, or blame us, it’s not all up to him.”
Expect more discussion of the Canucks’ future today and as the beginning of free agency approaches on July 1. Whether Canucks fans like it or not, Luongo will almost certainly be part of that discussion for several years to come.