Maybe Ilya Bryzgalov best summed up what bad goaltending feels like when he once said, “Some nights you are goat. Tonight I am goat.”
That distinction fell on both of the Vancouver Canucks goalies on Thursday night against Nashville, as fan favourite Cory Schneider played his worst game in the NHL, allowing three goals on only five shots, before being pulled after the first period.
Roberto Luongo, sadly, did not fare much better. Given every chance to be the beneficiary of a splendid comeback effort, with the Canucks scoring four unanswered second-period goals on route to a 5-3 lead, Luongo oversaw the collapse, allowing three goals during his time in net, including Mike Fisher’s game winner with just over a minute to go. The loss was certainly no fault of the forwards, who managed five goals against one of the league’s best in Pekka Rinne, nor was it the defense’s fault, as evidenced by the low quality scoring chances that the Predators consistently converted on. This loss fell on the goalies.
As such, a team already mired in a goaltending controversy finds itself dealing with a new twist in the drama. Before Thursday night’s loss, the million dollar question for coach Vigneault was which of the two goalies was going to give the team the best chance to win. Suddenly, he’ll also have to ask himself, who can he trust?
After dedicating so much energy to criticizing the play of Luongo, fans surely have no idea who they should vent their frustration towards now. Luongo has been criticized, and rightfully so, for being one of the most talented goalies in the world, but one who always struggled to play consistently at the top end of his range. For this reason, Cory Schneider, who many labelled as being an equally talented, but more reliable alternative, could do no wrong. Schneider has played above expectations whenever given an opportunity this season, including a streak of five consecutive wins. In one period, however, his golden-boy status has been cast into doubt.
Complicating matters, when given the opportunity to retake the reigns and show who’s boss, Luongo played lousy. In the span of 24 hours, the Canucks have gone from having two stallions battling for ice time to having two goats competing for space on the bench.
Is that an over-reaction? Perhaps. It is only one game, after all. Luongo will likely get the start on Sunday against the Calgary Flames, a team that has struggled to score and shouldn’t cause too many headaches for the Canucks’ goalie. Should Luongo play well, the Canucks will likely make the transition back to Luongo as their go-to guy. Should he have a poor performance though, coach Vigneault might have to start giving two separate press conferences each day: one to talk about the team, and one to talk about the goalies, because if there’s anything that gets Canucks fans riled up, it’s a goaltending controversy, and we seem to be smack in the middle of one.