Sports Canucks

Numbers not whole story for Vancouver Canucks goalie Luongo 0

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. (QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. (QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

If you're looking for Roberto Luongo's name among the top of the key NHL goalie statistics, don't bother.

With the season more than one-third of the way in, the Vancouver Canucks netminder isn't exactly dominating in the two main categories — ranking 14th in goals-against average (2.28) and 20th in save percentage (.918) prior to Wednesday's slate of games.

But numbers don't mean everything.

And in a season where the Canucks as a whole have been rather streaky, it's been goaltending that has proven to be one of the most consistent aspects of their game.

When it does come to stats and Luongo, he's tied for first overall in starts, tied for second in shutouts, third in ice time, sixth in shots against, and ninth in wins.

The 34-year-old has allowed more than two goals in a game just three times in his last 18 starts.

The Montreal native is also coming off a week where he was named the league's third star after putting together a 3-0-0 record with a 1.30 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.

And for that, he's been rewarded with a lengthy break, albeit not exactly by choice.

In this somewhat unusually scheduled week, Luongo might not see any action until Saturday, meaning he would have five full days off between games.

With the Canucks set to play another back-to-back this weekend, head coach John Tortorella could opt to go with Eddie Lack again Friday against the Edmonton Oilers after the backup goalie put up his first home win and first career shutout on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Not to mention the rookie, who is 4-2 with a .925 save percentage, earned a heap of praise from the bench boss following the 2-0 victory.

"The thing I like most about Eddie is just his presence," Tortorella said. "He doesn't get rattled and that's important for when a team is playing in front of a guy who hasn't played much … and they are kind of wondering what's going to happen. He just settles the team down. I hope it continues."

The Boston Bruins are in town Saturday, and you can bet Luongo — who is 14-8-5 this year — will be in net for that anticipated showdown. But this awkward back-to-back schedule forces Tortorella to be smart with his goalie decisions.

"As a coach, you're looking at the present and you're looking at the future too as you go through a long year with a condensed schedule that we have with the Olympics," he said.

Of course, there's also the Winter Games in February.

While the debate continues to rage when it comes to which three goalies Canada should bring to Sochi, it's more or less expected that Luongo gets the call. The man who backstopped the nation to an Olympic gold medal last time around in Vancouver will most likely join Montreal Canadiens starter Carey Price — the hottest goalie in the league right now — as the team's one-two punch. That is, barring any injuries or big developments.

When it comes down to it, Luongo won't need to be dazzling statistically leading up to the Olympics for that Sochi starting job. Consistency is key, and he's already a big reason why this Canucks team — and its middling 16th-ranked offence — is currently, at least, in a playoff position.

It all just makes this season that much more important for one of the busiest goalies in the league.




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