Roberto Luongo

Panthers goalie Luongo to turn 40, figure out what’s next

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Roberto Luongo won 227 games during his 20s. He won 262 more games during his 30s.

And now, his 40s await.

Florida’s veteran goalie – the oldest netminder and third-oldest player to appear in the NHL this season – will celebrate his milestone 40th birthday on Thursday. He’s tentatively scheduled to start the Panthers’ season-finale on Saturday night. Then it’ll be time for Luongo to begin his rite of spring: figuring out whether to keep playing.

”I don’t really want to make any decisions over the course of a season,” said Luongo, who would be the 20th goalie to play an NHL game as a 40something. ”Obviously, there’s a lot of emotions involved with that and you want to make sure that you make the right decision for all parties involved. I still love to play the game, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Luongo still has three years left on his contract and hasn’t given any indication that he’s looking at Saturday night as a farewell. He led the Panthers’ goaltender corps in starts and minutes this season – even after injuring a knee on opening night and missing a month, then being sidelined again a few weeks later with an aggravation of the same problem.

The Panthers missed the playoffs again. The franchise hasn’t won a postseason series since 1996. But in the room, Luongo’s voice still carries more weight than any other.

”He’s a future Hall of Famer,” said 22-year-old Sam Montembeault – a rookie and possibly Florida’s goalie heir apparent, who grew up idolizing Luongo and now sits next to him in the locker room. ”Every time I come to the rink, I’m learning from him. Before every game, he gives me advice, talks to me about the tendencies of certain players. I hope at 39 years old I can be as good as he is. I’ll take that any day.”

Luongo’s numbers this season weren’t great: His goals-against average is 3.10, the highest of any full season in his career, and his save percentage is a career-low .900. But the Panthers were plagued by defensive issues all season, which needs consideration when looking at Luongo’s numbers. And he’s finishing the year strong, with a 4-1-0 record in his last five starts.

”I know he wants to finish this season off the right way,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. ”And I think, after the season, he’s going to relax and he’s going to take some time. He’s going to spend some time with his family and think about what he wants to do next year.”

The Panthers plan to be active in free agency this summer. They’ll likely target a top goalie on July 1 and have been high on Montembeault’s potential.

Still, it would still be shocking if Florida didn’t try to convince Luongo to come back.

He remains a fan favorite, the veritable face of the franchise. He’s third in NHL history in wins, second all-time in saves, and has won more games with the Panthers than any two other goalies to ever don the team colors have combined. And if anyone thinks his mind is made up, Luongo turned to Twitter this week in an effort to debunk a report that health issues are soon going to usher in the end of his career.

”The only thing that I don’t really enjoy is when you see something that’s completely fabricated,” Luongo said. ”That’s the part that sometimes you’re not too happy about. But that being said, I’ve been through it many times. I handled it the best way that I could by making a joke out of it, and I’m moving on from there.”

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Luongo, Wade Luongo still feel anguish a year after Parkland

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PARKLAND, Fla. — Manuel Oliver has not seen a Miami Heat game in almost a year.

Truth be told, he never was the biggest basketball fan in the first place. He watched a lot of games, was even coaching a team at this time last year, and did all that because of the joy his son got from the sport.

And his son is gone now.

Thursday marks one year since Joaquin “Guac” Oliver and 16 others took their last breaths, all shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a massacre that only heightened the gun-control debate in this country. Manuel Oliver, an artist, only watched and took part in sports because of the bond it allowed him to forge with his son.

“I miss my son every single day,” Manuel Oliver said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m not counting the days. I just miss him. And I decided to defeat that feeling by empowering myself to get out there and make statements through art or speeches. Thursday, to me, is just another day. It will close the loop of the year, one loop of special occasions where we won’t have him. And then a new loop starts, where we won’t have him.”

Joaquin Oliver is the teen who was buried in the jersey of his favorite player, Heat star Dwyane Wade. The boy’s mother Patricia was the one who decided her son should be put to rest in the No. 3 jersey, and when Wade — who lost a cousin to gun violence in 2016 and had been traded back to Miami from Chicago less than a week before the Parkland shooting — learned of the gesture he was moved to act.

He met the Olivers. He learned about their son. He made a surprise appearance at the school on the day it reopened. He made kids laugh and smile and perhaps forget for a brief moment that their school was a crime scene, that their lives were forever changed and certainly not for the better.

“I still don’t have the words to express how much all that meant to me,” Wade said. “I mean, in that moment of grief, in a moment of ultimate sadness and a moment where you know so much was going on the thing that family decided to do was to bury him in my jersey because he was such a fan of mine. It’s still, I don’t know … I’m still very emotional.”

Sports, more often than not, can be a healing influence in times of tragedy.

Such was the case after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, when baseball and football resumed a week or two later and the Olympics five months later in Salt Lake City became a celebration tinged in the U.S. colors of red, white and blue. When 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016, the Orlando Magic decided to retire the number 49 months later in tribute. The Florida Panthers have never hoisted the Stanley Cup, but they made sure the Stoneman Douglas hockey team did last year in a private on-ice ceremony. Even Stoneman Douglas’ football team, when it won its first game of the season, prevailed by exactly 17 points — the same number of lives lost, a coincidence not lost on anyone.

“Sports bring people together,” Wade said. “Sports bring races together. Sports bring communities together. What this game we play, and the games other people play, can do is special. Not many things or people can bring a community, different races, people of different shapes, sizes, ages together the way sports does. And after Parkland, we saw that. We needed that.”

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo lives in Parkland, not far from the school. He still feels the anguish of his adopted hometown.

The Panthers’ first home game after the shooting was eight days later, and Luongo took the unusual stance of speaking to the crowd for about three minutes before the opening face-off. The jammed arena hung on his every word. The Panthers rallied in the final minutes for a 3-2 win over eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington.

The Panthers will be paying tribute again in the coming days to those who were lost, with moments of silence and other gestures at games this week.

“Whatever little we can do to help, you know, whether that’s just playing a game or taking the time to say ‘hi’ or whatever it is, I think those are the key little things that you want to try to do as much as possible,” Luongo said. “If we can be doing something that helps with their grieving, we should be doing it. It’ll never be enough, but we should still be doing whatever we can.”

Wade, for obvious reasons, has had Joaquin Oliver in mind often for the last year — especially in recent days, as the anniversary nears.

The Oliver family started a foundation called Change The Ref, with a mission of raising awareness about gun-control laws they want changed and the effect of mass shootings. Even the name has ties to the boy’s love of basketball: As the story goes, he got ejected from a game last year by a referee whose call he didn’t like, and Manuel Oliver — the coach — also got ejected for complaining.

On the way home, Joaquin told his father that their only way of winning that game would have been to change the ref.

“And when I remembered that, I knew what we had to do,” Manuel Oliver said.

With that, the foundation was born.

In a year of anguish, little moments of joy mean more than ever. Manuel Oliver couldn’t watch the Super Bowl this year, because it’s something he and his son usually did together. He doesn’t watch sports on television anymore, for the same reasons. But when he needs a smile, he can look at the trophy in his house from Joaquin’s last basketball season.

In the days after the shooting, Joaquin’s team finished its season without him. The team won its league championship. The Heat were there to help them celebrate.

“I always thought Joaquin was overreacting when he talked about Dwyane Wade,” Manuel Oliver said. “But he wasn’t. I’m not even a basketball fan, but he’s a great dude. Not just him: his mother, his sister, his dad, they’re all great. This took our son, but we’re still here. Joaquin’s parents are still here, fighting for him.”

Luongo day-to-day with latest knee injury

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Roberto Luongo appears to have injured the same knee that forced him to miss a month of action earlier this season.

Florida Panthers head coach Bob Boughner told media in Florida on Saturday that Luongo is day-to-day after tweaking his knee in a 4-1 loss on Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Luongo moved across the crease to make a save on Lucas Wallmark before falling back and grabbing his right leg, unable to stop Jordan Martinook from scoring on the ensuing rebound.

Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the injury is “believed not to be as serious as the one sustained on Oct. 6.”

Boughner said in his pre-game scrum that Luongo was already on the treadmill getting a workout in, supporting Shannon’s report.

Luongo played all of 32:21 in Florida’s opener before being sidelined. He returned to the crease on Nov. 2 against the Winnipeg Jets in the second game of the NHL’s Global Series in Finland and has started eight games since.

“Obviously, the team is pretty down when you see Lu go down again,” Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said after Friday’s game.

Luongo is 4-3-0 with a .902 save percentage in nine appearances this season.

The Panthers will roll with James Reimer for Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Michael Hutchinson was called up on an emergency basis from Springfield of the American Hockey League to play backup.

Luongo has been plagued with injuries over the past three seasons. He was limited to 40 games in 2016-17 and 35 in 2017-18 and the more time he misses, the more uncertain things become in the Panthers crease.

Reimer has struggled with a 3-5-1 record and a .896 save percentage in 12 games while Hutchinson hasn’t faired any better a 1-1-2 and a .839 save percentage in four appearances.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Boyle, Luongo, Staal are 2018 Masterton Trophy Finalists

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Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils, Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes have been named finalists for the 2017-18 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The award, which is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association is given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

PHWA chapters in each NHL market nominate a player for the award each year and the top three vote-getters are then designated as finalists.

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Brian Boyle’s story – via the NHL:

Before Boyle set foot on the ice as a New Jersey Devil, he faced his biggest test. At the start of training camp the 33-year-old was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a type of bone marrow cancer. He worked his way back into the lineup by Nov. 1 and notched 10 goals over his first 25 games, including a memorable goal on the Devils’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Prudential Center, a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Nov. 24. Boyle missed just three games after his season debut and represented the Devils at the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay. While handling his own illness, his family and his career, Boyle has approached every day with the same optimistic attitude and perseverance that has inspired and lifted the Devils’ locker room.

Roberto Luongo’s story – via the NHL:

Luongo, 39, overcame hand and groin injuries during the season and backstopped the Panthers’ drive for an Eastern Conference Playoff berth. Sidelined by injury since early December, the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, shutouts and appearances returned on Feb. 17 to help the Panthers defeat Calgary 6-3 and ignite a Florida rally in the East’s Wild Card race. In a 13-game span, Luongo went 9-3-1 with a 2.44 GAA and .928 SV%. On Feb. 22, Luongo delivered a heartfelt, unscripted speech to the crowd at BB&T Center prior to Florida’s game against Washington. The 12-year resident of nearby Parkland, Fla., addressed the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting during the Panthers’ pregame ceremony to honor the victims.

Jordan Staal’s story – via the NHL: 

Showing leadership and strength amidst a family tragedy, Staal was a key component of the Hurricanes throughout the season. In late February, Staal and his wife, Heather, announced their daughter, Hannah, was delivered stillborn due to a terminal birth defect previously diagnosed by doctors. Staal, who had assumed a bigger leadership role with the young Hurricanes by being named co-captain before the season, missed just three games following the tragedy. He registered 46 points (19 goals, 27 assists) in 79 games, the second-highest goal and point totals in his six seasons with Carolina. The 29-year-old skated in his 800th NHL game on Dec. 27 against Montreal and scored his 200th goal on Jan. 12 against Washington.

2018 NHL Award finalists
Calder Trophy (Sunday)
Lady Byng Trophy
Norris Trophy
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Maple Leafs win records tumble, Caps win fifth straight

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Players of the Night:

Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals: He didn’t score on Wednesday, but his two assists were vital for the Capitals. Backstrom’s first helped tie the game with 33 seconds left in the first period. And with 65 seconds left in the game, his second apple of the night set up the tying goal that forced overtime, which Washington won via Evgeny Kuznetsov 38 seconds into the extra frame.

Kevin Connauton, Arizona Coyotes: Not a name you’re probably accustomed to seeing here, but Connauton put in a solid effort tonight, The 28-year-old opened the scoring for the Coyotes and then scored the game-winner in the second period to see off the Vegas Golden Knights.

Highlights of the Night: 

Roberto Luongo and Frederik Andersen put on an incredible-save clinic on Wednesday:

Luongo’s blocker save:

Andersen’s glove save:

The saves kept coming:

Kuznetsov fires home the winner and his sixth straight game with multiple points:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 4, Panthers 3

Capitals 3, Rangers 2

Flyers 2, Avalanche 1

Coyotes 3, Golden Knights 2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck