One of the stories that filtered out of Rogers Arena in the aftermath of Vancouver’s 1-0 Game 5 victory was Roberto Luongo’s comments regarding the game-winning goal. It was a little surprising to hear the Canucks’ goaltender say anything controversial after he’d given up 12 goals in the 5+ periods he played in Boston—yet there he was walking the line with reporters after his shutout victory. After the Canucks escaped with a thrilling 1-0 victory to put Vancouver on the edge of their first championship, Luongo rubbed salt in Boston’s wound by commenting: “the save would have been easy for me.”
In a series where both teams have been talking more than usual, Claude Julien was asked if he was surprised with Luongo’s comments. More importantly, he was asked if the Bruins would use the perceived slight directed towards their goaltender as a rallying cry for Game 6.
“To be honest with you, this series has been a lot about that, and I know you guys are probably loving it, but we’re down to the wire here and have to focus on our game and what it means, a lot more than what is being said.” Julien continued: “Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Anybody can say what they want. Right now my focus is on getting this team back in this series. The last time we came back here we were down two games and we got ourselves back into it and I see no reason at all why we can’t do that with just the one game.”
Bruins’ agitator Shawn Thornton had comments of his own:
“Whatever, man — people go about things one way and we go about it another. It is unfortunate, because I think Timmy has been our best player definitely throughout the whole and through the playoffs. I love the way he plays. I think he’s only allowed [six] goals this whole series. He’s been unbelievable for us. Comments are comments — some people make them but we choose to go the other route.”
All things being equal, Claude Julien must love any focus on goaltending this series. Despite trailing the series 3-2, Tim Thomas has only given up 6 goals in 5 games. In fact, there are those in the media who think Tim Thomas may win the Conn Smythe Trophy even if the Bruins fall in the Stanley Cup Final. Goaltending certainly hasn’t been the problem in this series. No, losing a pair of 1-0 games and a miserable power play have been the Bruins problems throughout the Final.
There have been a ton of intriguing story lines and psychological games between the two teams in the Stanley Cup Final, but everything can be distilled to one fact: when Roberto Luongo has played well in the Finals, the Canucks have won. When he’s struggled, they’ve lost. He has only given up two goals in the Canucks three victories against the Bruins—yet his goals against average looks like the gross national product of Belize in his two loses. Twice he’s outdueled Thomas, earned shutouts, and led his team to victory. Today he stood behind his post-game comments when he said, “I’ve been pumping his tires ever since the series started. I haven’t heard any one nice thing he’s had to say about me, so that’s the way it is.”
If he shutdown the Bruins again in Game 6, the comments to the media won’t mean anything while he’s raising the Stanley Cup. But if he struggles in Boston again, I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about it.