All or nothing for fickle Luongo in Stanley Cup Game Seven

At game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, with the Canucks up three games to two, the Cup was in the building. A win would have clinched the series for Vancouver and won the first championship in the franchise's 41-year history. Back in British Columbia fans lined the streets of Vancouver. Watching together from afar. Waiting. Hoping.

Early in the first period, in a span of just three minutes and four seconds, that hope was dashed. Luongo allowed three goals on eight shots and was pulled in favor of backup Corey Schneider. The second time he has been pulled in three games in Boston.

Over that span he has mounted an abysmal .772 save percentage (51 saves on 66 shots) and a catastrophic 8.04 goals against average. He has unraveled, cost his team any real chance at picking up a road victory, and, perhaps, solidified himself as the most fragile-minded tender in the game.

With the all-deciding game seven to be played on Wednesday night, regardless of the outcome the general media consensus already has his opposite number, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who has thoroughly outplayed him throughout the series, skating off with the Conn Smyth Trophy as the playoffs MVP.

And yet, with the ultimate prize on the line, just one win away from Lord Stanley’s Cup despite being outscored eight goals to 19, Roberto Louongo is also the city of Vancouver’s last hope.

The Canucks' offense tandem of the Sedin Twins — Henrik led the league in scoring last season, Daniel led this season — has been rendered ineffective by the defensive play of the Bruins. Henrik didn’t get his first shot on goal until game four and picked up his only goal of the series in garbage time of game six. In six games the Canucks have yet to score more than 2 goals in regulation.

And as awful as Luongo has played in Boston these finals, he has played conversely as great in Rogers Arena.

While he has been yanked twice in three games in Boston, he has shut out the Bruins twice in three games in Vancouver. Whereas in Boston he has been the Luongo that falls apart — the Luongo that was pulled in games four and five of the first round match-up against the Blackhawks, and benched to start game six — in Vancouver he has been every bit the two-time Lester B. Pearson trophy winner, four-time all-star, and Olympic gold medal winner.

The exhausted Canucks fans stationed around Rogers Arena may have cheered both times Luongo received the hook, but they will have to rely upon him if they are to lift the Cup Wednesday night. They’ll need another classic dominant Luongo performance.

And even then, with the play of Thomas it might not be enough.

While the games in Boston have been blow-outs, with both goaltenders on their game the match-ups in Vancouver have been tight. The Canucks took all three games, but they all went down to the wire.

Game one was won by the lone goal, scored by Raffi Torres with 18.5 seconds remaining in regulation. Game two went to overtime tied at two apiece. The Canucks scored 11 seconds into the extra period for the win. And game three saw another 1-0 Vancouver win off Maxim Lapierre’s third period tally.

And so we head toward the greatest moment in professional sports, a game seven with the championship on the line. It is a match-up between two goaltenders: Thomas, whose incredible play has thus far been thwarted in Vancouver, and Luongo, sometimes brilliant, sometimes awful, still trying to shake those Boston chants echoing in his head.

click to enlarge All or nothing for fickle Luongo in Stanley Cup Game Seven - Matt Boulton
Matt Boulton
All or nothing for fickle Luongo in Stanley Cup Game Seven

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo tends the crease
  • Matt Boulton

At the far end of the Vancouver Canucks bench sits Roberto Luongo, finalist for the Vezina Trophy, with mocking sing-songy chants of “Looooou-Onnnnnn-Goooo” raining down on him from the Boston faithful in TD Garden.

It’s the third period, Luongo hasn’t been in the game since the 11-minute mark of the first, but the Bruins fans are still reveling in their ability to get inside his head.

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