Roberto Luongo has to start making some saves. He admits as much himself. Whether or not it’ll make a difference with Vancouver Canucks fans is the question.
Luongo heard the jeers last night in a 4-0 home loss to the Rangers in which the goalie at the other end, Henrik Lundqvist, was perfect. None of the goals Luongo surrendered were of the horrendous variety, unless you’re talking about the other Canucks on the ice.
So why the jeers?
Ed Willes of The Province sums it up perfectly.
The dissatisfaction expressed at Luongo on Tuesday night wasn’t because of a so-so outing against the Rangers. It’s not even about the first four games which has left him with a 1-2-1 start, a 3.70 GAA and an .856 save percentage.
It’s about last year’s Stanley Cup final. It’s about almost blowing a 3-0 lead to Chicago in the first round. It’s about back-to-back meltdowns against the Blackhawks the previous two post-seasons.
It’s about the accumulated baggage of the last three years. And that baggage looks like it’s starting to weigh him down.
Luongo’s advocates will be quick to note he’s a perennial slow starter. However, that doesn’t change the fact he could string together 82 straight shutouts in the regular season and many Canucks fans would still doubt his ability to perform in the playoffs. And it’s tough to say they’re wrong to doubt him. Luongo has had some great playoff performances (think Game 5 of the Cup final), but his bad outings have been downright nightmarish.
If there’s a professional athlete whose story is most similar to Luongo’s, it might be former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Great numbers in the regular season. Almost always led his team to the playoffs. Even came within a game of winning a title. But it was the disastrous playoff outings that made his relationship with Philly fans toxic. The three consecutive defeats in the conference championships, the worst coming in 2003 when the Eagles lost at home to the Carolina Panthers and McNabb threw three interceptions. Then, when the Eagles finally broke through the next year and made it to the Super Bowl against the Patriots, McNabb again threw three picks in a losing effort, after which he had to deny throwing up in the huddle late in the game. Philly fans still debate whether he did or not.
That Cory Schneider is the back-up in Vancouver only gives Luongo’s detractors more ammunition. This despite the fact Schneider has just one postseason start to his résumé – Game 6 against the Blackhawks in last year’s first round – and he cramped up in it and had to be replaced by Luongo.
Stay tuned on this one.