Roberto Luongo: The Rodney Dangerfield of Hockey
I think Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) is bang on when he points out:
Luongo is the goalie who can’t seem to win, even when, well, he’s winning. His goals-against average this postseason is 2.23 and his save percentage is .918. These are remarkable numbers if you consider he got shelled in two of his 13 starts.
Luongo is 9-5 this postseason, and just three wins away from getting to the Stanley Cup final. But there exists an unhealthy amount of negativity and criticism which follows him.
Sometimes I wonder about fans’ – Canucks fans or hockey fans – expectations of Luo.
He owns franchise records for wins and lowest GAA in a season. He’s been with the team for five seasons and he’s backstopped them to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs three times, and of course, to at least the Western Conference Finals this season.
About the criticism that he can’t win the big games?
His GAA and save percentage are virtually identical in the regular season and playoffs. He’s only 8 playoff wins back of Kirk McLean and he’s played in 20 less games than Captain Kirk; his career playoff save percentage is also better than McLean’s.
He’s won at the World Championships, the World Cup, and of course, the Olympics. And while some of his critics point out that any goalie could have won playing behind Team Canada’s players at the 2010 Olympics, those same critics conveniently ignore that same version of Team Canada lost earlier to the US with Martin Brodeur in net. Those same critics love to point out the Zach Parise goal Luongo let in to tie the game late in the third period while conveniently forgetting Luo’s stop on Joe Pavelski right before Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.
Sure he hasn’t a Stanley Cup, but neither had 22 of the other 24 goalies who have appeared so far in these playoffs. And you don’t hear them criticized as much as Luongo has.
In fact, like in the Olympics, there are some assertions that the Canucks have somehow made it to the Final Four, not because of Luongo, but in spite of him.
“He never gets really a fair shake in this city and this league,” Cory Schneider said Monday. “If we win it’s not because of him and if we lose it’s his fault, it seems like. It’s kind of a lose-lose proposition for him. But he’s ignored all the criticism, all the pressure and all the questions.
“I don’t know what more people want from him.”
Certainly he hasn’t been perfect. But he’s been good when it matters the most, and perhaps more importantly, he’s been able to bounce back even when he’d been bad.
When you look at the numbers, you’ll see the Canucks have the 3rd lowest GF per game (2.36) out of the 16 playoff teams. You’ll also see the Canucks have the 4th best GA per game (2.50). For those counting at home, you’ll figure out the Canucks have won the most number of playoff games in 17 years despite not being able to put the puck in the net.
Of course the team’s deep defense and the forwards’ commitment to play hard at both ends of the ice deserve credit for this, but you can’t ignore Luongo in this equation.
Or you could, until he wins the Stanley Cup, which it seems what it would take for him to get some respect in this city. And even then, it may not be a guarantee he’ll get it.