There was quite a fuss earlier this week when Roberto Luongo was pulled against the New York Islanders – the 7th time this season and 4th in his last 13 games he didn’t finish a game he started.
After the game, Luongo tried to defend himself:
“We are playing a different brand of hockey this year and it’s been more offensive,” said Luongo, who only got the hook twice last season. “We are not as conservative as we used to be.”
To which, Alain Vigneault replied:
“I think maybe what has happened, especially during this (recent) road trip, when you give up early goals you have to press, you have to try and make the ground up,” he said. “When you are pressing, obviously you are going to give up more chances and a lot of those chances are going to be rush chances because you are pressing. But as far as the style of play that we are playing since I have been here, it’s the exact same thing. The skill level has changed, but the style of play is the same.”
Both of them are correct.
So far this season, the Canucks are averaging 3.24 goals/game and 30.6 shots/game, easily their highest averages in Luongo’s almost 4 seasons in Vancouver. They’re playing a more offensive style and the defensemen are pinching in more. Of course, the by-product of that is that the Canucks are surrendering more quality chances against.
It’s also true that the Canucks are having to come-from-behind more often. In the 59 games that Luongo started, the Canucks surrendered the first goal in 58% of them.
I don’t think anyone is disputing that Luongo is going through a stretch of games right now in which he’s been inconsistent. Here are his stats since the Canucks embarked on their 14-game road trip.
|Mar. 3 to 18||Games||GAA||Save%|
|Stats in wins||8||1.86||0.940|
|Stats in others||6||5.73||0.796|
I know it may seem stupid to compare his stats between games he’s won and games he didn’t, but I wanted to point out the inconsistency in his recent play and I don’t want you to think that I’m overlooking it.
Despite all that, Luongo – and the Canucks – continue to pile up the wins. Already, Lui has 37 wins for the season, his highest total since his first season with the Canucks. He’s tied for 3rd in the NHL with Jonathan Quick and Evgeni Nabokov, and behind Martin Brodeur (39) and Ilya Bryzgalov (38); he’s played less games than all of those other goaltenders.
When you remove Tukka Rask, Anti Niemi and Jaroslav Halak from the equation – all three played about half the number of games Luongo has this season – his 2.45 GAA and .915 save percentage are top-10 in the league.
When you also consider that the Canucks have played a significant part of their season without both Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa, the numbers become even more impressive.
|Jan. 20 to Mar. 9||GP||Record||GAA||Save%|
|Wihtout Mitchell and Bieksa||15||10-4-0||2.97||0.906|
How many teams can lose 2 of their top-4 defenseman, go on a 14-game road trip, and not only keep pace with the other teams around them, but also gain ground on the teams ahead of them in the standings?
More from Luongo:
“I’m in goal to win games, you know. I haven’t looked at my numbers. I can’t even tell you what they were the last two months. All that matters to me is winning games and unfortunately at times there is going to be an ugly line at the end of the day. You have to win four games out of seven (in the playoffs) in a month, so that is all that matters to me.”
And it’s all that matters to me.