When people talk about the greatest success of the greatest regular season in Vancouver Canucks franchise history, they usually point to the Sedin twins (especially Daniel Sedin) and possible Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler.
One player who surprisingly slips under the radar a bit is goalie Roberto Luongo. The big Canucks goalie suffered through a tough campaign last year, but he bounced back in a big way without the weight of being a captain on his shoulders. Luongo didn’t just lead the league in wins with 38 (largely a team-based stat), he also produced an excellent 92.8 save percentage.
If his contributions to Vancouver’s best-ever season weren’t clear enough, he provided a compelling example of how great he’s been, standing on his head to stop all 32 of the Chicago Blackhawks’ shots tonight.
Vancouver 2, Chicago 0; Canucks lead 1-0
At one point in this game, it seemed like Luongo’s performance wouldn’t be that important. The Canucks galloped to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period as Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen, which obviously ended up being all the goals Vancouver needed.
That’s not to say that Chicago’s attack was totally impotent, despite the score. While the Blackhawks received plenty of luck in getting into the playoffs in the first place, they didn’t get many lucky bounces in this game, as their shots hit at least four posts in the game.
Corey Crawford couldn’t earn the win, but the ‘Hawks rookie kept his team in the game by stopping 31 out of 33 shots. He made some big saves especially once the score was 2-0, giving Chicago at least a shot at a comeback.
It was not to be, though, as Vancouver got their first win out of the way. It was an intense and entertaining game, as the Canucks took the physical part of the game to the Blackhawks by out-hitting them 47 to 21. That’s a wise strategy since Chicago faced an exhausting stretch run to make the playoffs and tend to lean heavily on their best players with little help from depth guys.
The Canucks are still three wins away from getting this deep dish pizza-sized monkey off their backs, but Luongo & Co. look hungry to do just that.