The month of October has been a roller-coaster ride for the Vancouver Canucks. With many ups and downs and inconsistent playing, it is difficult to know what to expect in the upcoming weeks. However, it is only October, and many teams are infamous for their slow starts in the beginning of the season and their domination for the rest. The Canucks have proven to be one of these teams in the past, but with so many different good and bad things about their play, their identity remains a mystery.
Sami Salo is playing like a hockey god, but the Canucks’ top three defensemen are plagued with terrible plus/minus ratings. The Sedins are continuing to make insane passes and freaky moves, but they are not getting enough shots through. The fourth line has really come together, but the third line has been nonexistent. The Canucks are struggling to score and are struggling to defend, while at the same time certain players such as Salo, Burrows and Kesler are excelling. Overall, the Canucks are disjointed.
The Canucks did not fare well last October either, posting a 5-3-2 record in their first 10 games. So far, this year’s team is at 4-5-1, a record which most fans are disappointed in, as their expectations remain high. One increasingly pressing topic is the Canucks’ goaltending. Not every goalie is perfect – even superstars make mistakes, and with the way his team is playing in front of him on the ice, and his already inconsistent play, Roberto Luongo has not played up to anyone’s standards.
The statistics are not pretty. The only team in the Western Conference with more goals against than the Canucks are the Columbus Blue Jackets, who just recently won their first game; we have 29 goals against, while the Blue Jackets have 30. Luongo has only two of the Canucks four wins. He has a goals against average of 3.45 and a save percentage of .868.
“It’s not about Luongo or Schneider, Canucks struggling to score,” claimed the Vancouver Canucks Facebook page after Wednesday’s loss. Even though most people are able to find a way to blame the losses on Luongo, many reporters, Canucks players and Canucks staff have made the above point as well.
“It’s never been about the goaltender, it’s been about the whole team,” said Daniel Sedin.
As for those who are losing faith in Luongo, head coach Alain Vigneault continues to trust in his abilities
“Since the lockout, Roberto has played the second most games of any goaltender in the NHL,” he said. “He’s got the second most wins of any goaltender in the NHL. He’s got the second best winning percentage of any goaltender in the NHL. He’s got the third best goals against average of any goalie in the NHL and he’s got the fourth best save percentage of any goaltender in the NHL. Those are pretty good stats. So you do what you want with it.”
In the first period of Tuesday’s game against Edmonton, Luongo looked solid in the net, making good and important saves. He played like an almost completely different goalie than the one seen in the first game against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the team in front of Luongo was not helping him out that much and by making a few mistakes and lacking to communicate with each other, three goals were scored and Luongo was pulled.
Many question Vigneault’s choices of pulling Luongo and having Schneider start the next night against St. Louis. There is no doubt that Schneider is an incredible goalie, who saved the Canucks last year and has already made saves worthy of the 2011-12 highlight reel, but Luongo needs to find his game. He needs a chance to step up his play and prove to everybody, including himself, that he is a world class goalie. It will probably be Luongo playing Saturday against the Washington Capitals, which will be a challenge for both him and his team, as the Capitals are currently one of the best teams in the league. Take note that even history suggests that Luongo will bounce back and be that amazing goalie everyone saw last season who was nominated for the Vezina trophy.
“The odds may be stacked against you…But what the odds don’t know is that this isn’t a math test. This is a completely different type of test. One where passion has a funny way of trumping logic. So…before the whistle blows and the clock starts ticking, just remember: out here, the results don’t always add up.” Used in a commercial for Versus TV, this quote defines the game of hockey and could define the Canucks if they improve over the next few games.
It is only October. There are still a lot of games to go. Last year, the big game that turned everything around was a horrific loss against Chicago in November. Perhaps Canucks fans and players alike will think back in April to this week and look at it as the turning point, where the team gained some energy and some passion and really brought it to the ice with them. As Derek Jory from Canucks.com said, “It’s early. The panic button remains enclosed in tinted bullet/vampire proof glass.”