Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ok, it’s time to lay off Luongo

The unusual level of criticism provided to Roberto Luongo in the last week can come to an end, the Vancouver goaltender returned to the form that has won over the always anxious Canuck fan base as he prevailed in the shoot out to lead the Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Vancouver finally overcame what had become a rather annoying statistic, when they claimed victory after trailing heading into the third period. The Canucks had previously gone 0-17-1 when down in the goals department going into the third, so a positive result in that category will be a welcome talking point on the Vancouver sports radio shows.

The win also ended a four game slump heading into the all star break and positioned them for a tie with Minnesota for first in the Northwest and more importantly placed them inside the top eight (if barely there) playoff spots as the league breaks for its all star festivities.

But by far, the most reassuring thing for Canuck fans will be the play of Luongo, who has been remarkable for most of the season in the Canucks net. Stealing games that perhaps they had no right to win, it’s because of that high level of play that the last few games have become such a near crisis in Vancouver.

Goaltending has always been the Achilles heel of this team, it’s the main talking point for fans with long memories, who can’t help but ponder past playoff runs and the need for a goaltender to step up and shut down the opposition.

The fact that Luongo had a few off nights, while not sending anyone off for the pepto bismal bottles, does plant the seed of fear in Vancouver fans, who don’t take much to head for full fledged panic. Matters were not helped by the surprising comments of coach Alain Vigneault, who wanted his goaltender to pick up his game a bit. Vigneault's thoughts set off yet another bout of hand wringing from the ever anxious followers of all things Canuck.

With Luongo finding his zone on Wednesday and now able to benefit from the all star break and a week long opportunity to check up on his pregnant wife in Florida, there’s a very good chance that he’ll come back refreshed and ready to head into the homestretch of the regular season.

Luongo plans on taking it easy on his week off, Vancouver fans (and management) might be advised to do the same.

This season, goaltending is the very least of their worries, goal scoring and defensive play should be where they have their nightmares. If they wish to get all worked up, then they should spend their all star break scouting out the other 29 rosters, looking for the one ingredient that may change the dynamic of the team and secure not only a playoff spot, but help to make plans for a lengthy run should they make it to that point.

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