Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Luongo closes in on Legend status in Vancouver

Over the years the Vancouver Canucks have been the undoing of many a goaltender’s career, players who have toiled in the nets in Vancouver have found that a year or two on the coast of the Pacific comes with some kind of Kryptonite curse that renders them to the afterthoughts of the NHL. The list is far too long to recite here, but dig deep enough into any ancient scoring report and you'll most likely find a shattered goal tender who once played in Vancouver.

There have been a few that have risen above the curse, Gary Smith, Richard Brodeur, Glen Hanlon, John Garrett and Kirk McLean all seemed to come through their years as Canucks more or less unscathed, Brodeur and McLean getting that rare feeling of post season success and the glory that went with it.

With such a history behind the position one might have wondered how Roberto Luongo would fare in the Orca Bay whale suits, long considered one of the best, Luongo had played in relative obscurity lost in the heat of the sun, waves of the surf and occasional terror (Hi there Mr. Keenan) of life in Florida.

His trade to Vancouver came with the added baggage of being described as the move that has finally delivered to the Canucks a shutdown savior. And with 38 wins now under his belt, Luongo has more than begun to deliver on many of the pre season expectations.

Luongo tied Kirk McLean's record of 1991-92 on Tuesday night, as he notched that 38th win, a share of the record total for Vancouver with still more than five weeks to go in the season, providing lots of room for adding to the stats package.

What’s even more remarkable about Luongo’s achievement is that on many a night, he’s been the only thing between a Canucks win or loss. Luongo when called upon to make the big save has made it, left on his own far more often than should be desired, he has stood the test and more than proven that the accolades that pre-ceded him were very well quite prescient.

It’s been a good number of years since the Canucks have had a goaltender that single handedly saves the day, steals the win or leads the team in determination. The Canucks on a normal night will usually find a way to reduce the margin of victory to one goal, a defensive breakdown or a burst of offence from the opposition will put the heat back on the goaltender and Luongo never fails to rise to that occasion.

Tuesday night, the Canucks did their goaltender a favour; the shot totals from Tampa Bay were low at 17, the margin of victory by the Canucks high with a 5-1 decision.

It was the next best thing to a night off for the Canucks stand out in the nets.

Confidence is always the ingredient that a team needs when they head into the playoffs, and slowly this Canuck team has developed that key requirement. The Canucks enter each game now with a confidence in their own abilities to lock down and win in the third and confidence that the last line of defence will be there to make the difference.

In a tight playoff race and then the playoff derby that follows, it’s going to be the calming presence of Luongo in the nets that could deliver this Vancouver team a long ride in this years playoffs.

A presence that will continue to make him larger than life in Canuck lore and place him among the legends of the game that have pulled on a Canuck sweater over the years.

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