Friday, October 06, 2006

Lessons from Luongo

The Vancouver Canucks entered the 2006-07 regular season last night with a few question marks about the Dave Nonis era squad. Gone were some fairly big names and players from key positions that have some calling for a long season for the faithful a GM Place.

Jovo the anchor on the D for many seasons has moved on to the sun of Phoenix, Anson Carter weary of waiting for an offer signed with Columbus, Dan Cloutier that last great hope in the nets moved on to Los Angeles and of course there was the summers headline making trade of Todd Bertuzzi to Florida, taking Alex Auld along for the ride. Changes, changes changes, a new coach, a new style and hopefully a renewed desire to win.

The Bertuzzi trade brought Roberto Luongo to the West Coast, the latest of the goaltending saviors to arrive in a place littered with the corpses of tenders past. Thursday night, Luongo made his debut in the regular season and provided a performance that will quickly have his sweater selling out at sports stores across BC.

Simply put Luongo was marvelous, he controlled the game with remarkable saves, frustrating a Red Wing lineup and sending the crowd home early and in a bad mood to go with it. The fans of Hockeytown, normally a spoiled lot at the best of times, quickly learned that the halcyon days of domination may soon be coming to an end and they aren’t taking to that change well. Boos filtered down through the Joe as the Wings struggled to get their game untraced, only to see Lunongo shut the door whenever they did get a chance.

The Red Wings left a few questions on the ice by games end, the reliability of Hasek as their goaltender, a lack of scoring punch and some deficiencies in their own end. All of which will quickly be brought to their attention by the fans in the Motor City.

The Canucks while not as flashy as past squads had been, put in a solid sixty minute effort, hard work and attention to assignments paid off on the way to the 3-1 defeat of the Wings. The key by far was Luongo, who led by example early and never surrendered his ice as the game progressed. It could prove to be a key moment in the development of Alain Vigneault’s team chemistry. Once the Canucks are realize that Luongo is the real deal, then they should be able to take charge of games even more dynamically.

It will be a challenging season for the Canucks and their fans, no longer the expected favourite to come out of the west to challenge for a Stanley Cup, they instead will have to battle their way towards a play off berth and then make their run.

The Canucks will be relying on their new goaltender to carry the bulk of the games, it’s expected that he may see as much as 65 to 70 games this year providing he stays healthy.

If Luongo can provide the back end magic that he’s capable of they’ll be more than competitive, if the defence can help him out then they’ll be secure in the goals against, if the offence can get their game in gear they may one day be feared again.

One game in and the always popular sports talk shows on the West Coast had nothing but praise for their heroes, that will of course change as the season goes along, but one name that probably won’t have to fear the comments from line number four will be Luongo, he’s showing he’s everything that was advertised.

Vancouver 3, Detroit 1 stats pack

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