Roberto Luongo met with the media after Monday’s practice and everyone was eager to hear what he would have to say about Cory Schneider starting his sixth straight game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Luongo was unexpectedly poised and prepared, as he has frequently misspoken or said things in interviews that can be misinterpreted in the past. This time, Luongo wisely steered clear of any attempts at jokes and stuck with sincerity.

“The guy’s been working hard for two years and never said a word,” said Luongo, “so he deserves every minute that he’s getting right now and I’m one hundred percent behind him. He’s been behind me since the start and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be behind him one hundred percent.”

If Schneider continues to play the way he has over his last four starts, Luongo might end up behind him for a while. Oddly enough, that doesn’t mean that he’s no longer the Canucks’ number one goaltender.

While that may sound strange, let us consider a couple things: first, the hot streak that Schneider is on right now is fantastic, but it’s also not sustainable. During this four-game streak, he’s stopped 117 out of 120 shots, and as Cam Charron pointed out at Nucks Misconduct, “you don’t need a numerical expert to tell you that making 117 out of 120 saves is a lot.”

But this is a streak, nothing more. Schneider is a superb goaltender who deserves to start every game while he continues this hot streak, but over the long haul, Luongo is better. The reason Luongo is considered to be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL is his consistency. Some Canucks fans may rankle at a description of Luongo as “consistent,” but I don’t mean from game-to-game. Quite frankly, no goaltender is perfectly consistent from game-to-game. But the best goaltenders in the league are consistent season-to-season.

Since his rookie season, Luongo hasn’t seen his save percentage dip below .900 nor has his goals against average gone over 3.00. In that time, his worst ever save percentage and goals against average were .913 and 2.97 respectively. The save percentage came in 2009-10, when he still managed to win 40 games, and the goals against average came in his final year with the Panthers.

Why is that important? Because his current .896 save percentage simply will not continue. Luongo is too consistent a goaltender for that to happen. And his goals against average of 2.97 will come down, because the 2011-12 Vancouver Canucks are not the 2005-06 Florida Panthers. At some point this season, Luongo will go on a streak similar to Schneider’s and people will say that he’s redeeming himself or rising to the challenge posed by Schneider, when really he’ll just be playing as good as he always has.

The second point comes¬†courtesy of Beantown Canuck: Schneider’s record in November is 4-2, with a .933 save percentage. Luongo’s record is an identical 4-2, with a .925 save percentage. So how much of the goaltending controversy is just because Schneider’s 4 wins this month all came in a row?

I remember a number of fans panicking when Schneider’s first start after Luongo’s injury was a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks where he looked remarkably shaky on a couple ugly goals. The big concern then was how long Luongo would be out, because it suddenly looked like Schneider wasn’t ready. 10 days later and some are suggesting that Schneider is ready to take the reins and Luongo should be shipped out of town. Maybe, just maybe, we should allow a little time and perspective to take the reins instead.

I hate to bring up Tim Thomas, but the season before he set the NHL record for highest save percentage, won the Vezina Trophy, and led the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup, he lost his starting job to his young, hotshot backup, Tuukka Rask. Last season he started only 57 games in the regular season. The only season in which Luongo has started fewer than 60 games was when he was injured in 2008-09. He still started 54 games.

Schneider getting more starts isn’t a bad thing for Luongo and it doesn’t mean that Luongo is no longer the Canucks number one goaltender. It just means that he will get fewer starts this season and be even more well-rested going into the playoffs than last year. Schneider’s hot streak will end, he’ll put up a couple more games like his loss to the Blackhawks, and some will wonder how we ever thought that Schneider could be the Canucks’ number one goaltender. Then someone will bank the puck off Luongo’s back and in from behind the goal line and those same people will be clamouring for Schneider to start every game.

Can we please, please have a little perspective? Is that too much to ask?

 

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33 comments

  1. Timmy
    November 28, 2011

    If you’re looking for feedback on your writing, you’re still coherent :P

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  2. Anonymous
    November 28, 2011

    Great points!

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  3. Blake Rupert
    November 28, 2011

    Thank you for this article. Knee jerk responses to what is happening right before our eyes (current hot streak of one player) are reactions that are easy and intuitive to make. But in sports, something that stretches beyond the immediate frame, perspective must be kept in mind. Otherwise you’re not talking about players or results, you’re talking about performances or flukes.
    Does Schnieder’s bad game give a good indication of him as a player?
    Does Cowen *cough Rome’s* goal scoring bout show his true calibre?
    No but Luongo’s stats last year are true to form placing him top five in the league.
    but hey, that doesnt matter

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  4. tj
    November 28, 2011

    Much appreciated perspective. Thanks.

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  5. Rituro
    November 28, 2011

    Wait, hang on; are you suggesting rational, logical thought be applied to a situation? And you’re suggesting we do this… on the internet? About a sports team?

    Everything OK over there in Wagner-land?

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    • Zen Wu
      November 29, 2011

      Thanks, Rituro…great for a chuckle :)

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  6. Josh
    November 28, 2011

    I can’t agree with this article any harder. I love both goalies, truly, but it would be a huge mistake to ship one or the other off right now before see how this situation plays out.

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  7. John Andress
    November 28, 2011

    Great piece and sensible, well thought out, cogent points about Luongo, Schneider and NHL goal-tenders in general. Does this mean that the answer to your closing question will be “Yes, let’s keep a little perspective”? Not a chance! There is as much chance of that happening as there is of Vancouver having a rain-free December this year. You just had to listen to the questions being asked of AV, Schneider and Luongo in the press scrum today to appreciate the fact that the media is desperately trying to get someone to say something that could in any way be interpreted as controversial. The eastern media doesn’t even need that. I predict that the talking heads on the Sportsnet and TSN panels plus all of the usual suspects will be banging the goalie controversy drum like an Orangeman on the 12th Of July and whipping our local haters and naysayers into a frothing frenzy of angst about our goalies. Not enough to say that the Canucks are the luckiest team on the planet to have two such quality players pulling on the same rope in the same direction, some way will have to be found to screw it up. I hope that the team can stay out of it and keep doing the business and getting into position for the big push at the end. The push in which two goalies playing well will give us a great chance to get to the promised land.

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  8. peanutflower
    November 28, 2011

    Perfect. I wish tens of thousands, nay, thousands of thousands would be forced to read this. There must be a way to hack post this on TSN’s site…. Anyway, the grass is always greener on the other side of the goalie graveyard. I think Luongo earns every penny just for putting up with this shite. Schneider is good, but still unproven in the long haul. My money — well, not MY money obviously — is and always will be on Luongo. There is no fiercer competitor. We are so lucky to have a team with two such good goalies. What a bonus situation to be in!

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  9. Nee
    November 28, 2011

    I’m a bit confused why AV didn’t announce on Tuesday which goalie would be playing. Give the media less time to work itself into a frenzy.

    On a personal note, as a Lu fan, this doesn’t bother me at all. Schneids is on a hot streak, so for sure you play him. Lu will get his starts. This is an excellent ‘problem’ to have: 2 great goalies.

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  10. Chinstrap Joe
    November 28, 2011

    Congrats on the new crumb-cruncher, Daniel. The tone of this article kind of reminds me of the global warming debate, in that “the science is settled – therefore suggesting anything otherwise is heresy and you will be shouted down”. Hockey, as in science, new compelling contranian evidence should always be open for consideration. I think that many sane people are looking at the situation and wondering where the future of the franchise lies – in the 32 year old veteran that has shown some verifiable holes in his shiny armor or the 25 year old who has all the tools to be a franchise goalie. I have been a fan of Luongo since before he came to Vancouver but am now starting to question his mental toughness to go all the way. His gold medal is often quoted as the “coup de grace” to questions regarding his ability but I vividly remember that he fought the puck constantly, gave up fat rebounds and was outplayed by Miller at the other end of the ice during the olympics.

    I do not think that a hasty decision is in order but I think that many Canuck fans have a sick feeling about another “Cam Neely” type situation, where we let the best goalie we’ve ever developed get away because we couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      November 28, 2011

      I understand what you’re saying, Joe, but I did point out some contemporary evidence as well: their respective Novembers. Of course Luongo has holes in his game. Every goaltender has holes in his game. Even Schneider. Don’t get me wrong, Schneider is a fantastic goaltender and he’s playing very well right now. That’s why he should continue to start while he’s hot. But very, very few goaltenders in the NHL are consistently good year in and year out. When you get a goaltender with that kind of consistency, you hang on to him.

      Ideally, the Canucks would keep both Luongo and Schneider around for the rest of their careers and employ the most kickass goalie tandem in NHL history, but that’s not likely to happen.

      It’s interesting that you bring up the Olympics: Luongo was not at his best, but still replaced Brodeur and won the gold medal. So people criticize him for not playing at his best. Other seasons he has been an outstanding goaltender but his team hasn’t won. So people criticize him for not being a winner. Maybe both criticisms are off-base.

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      • Chinstrap Joe
        November 29, 2011

        Understood. I agree that Lou has (in many ways) been unfairly aired out in the media but I don’t think the solution is to dismiss any and all criticism – which is the tone that I took from the article. The thing that gives me pause is his mental toughness when it comes to the playoffs – which is difficult to assign a stat to but I’ll try.

        Arguably, the two greatest playoff goalies of the modern era are Brodeur and Roy. Brodeur’s GAA from the regular season to the playoffs decreased by 0.21 and Roy decreased by 0.24. With Luongo, using only his GAA as a Canuck, his increased by 0.18.

        In the 09-10 season to playoff comparison, Lou’s GAA increased by 0.45 where Tim Thomas’ decreased by 0.02.

        I’m not insinuating that he is a teriible goaltender because of this – just saying that the stats show that he trends in the wrong direction when it comes to the pressure of the playoffs.

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  11. M. Richter
    November 28, 2011

    You’re asking for perspective from a rabid hockey fanbase (and don’t take that as an insult toward the Canucks or Vancouver – any fanbase can plunge off the deep end with minimal provocation). Speaking as someone who’s been mired by the recent Capitals fiasco, I can say with certainty that hockey fans as a whole aren’t terribly big on perspective.

    Or the big picture (unless it’s retrospective and involves a nice shiny Stanley Cup somewhere in the frame).

    So I applaud your call for rationality and a few deep breaths, but I suspect it’s going to fall on predominantly deaf ears. Which yours will likely be, after another month of new fatherhood (Congrats on that, by the way!). Hopefully the spring will shake things up and bit and settle them down, but as we all know, it’s far too soon to tell.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      November 28, 2011

      If no one will call for perspective and rationality, perspective and rationality will never prevail. What’s the point in being silent?

      Besides, I think there’s a large contingent of Canucks fans who are rational and have perspective but never have their voices heard in the media. At the very least, they should know they’re not alone.

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      • kim
        November 30, 2011

        And that’s why a lot of us come here – for the sanity and thought out posts. Thank you, sirs.

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  12. Andrewsucks
    November 28, 2011

    You’re asking for perspective from fans that burnt down their own city

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    • Daniel Wagner
      November 28, 2011

      Partly, yes. Perspective is exactly what the rioters (who are not anywhere near representative of all Canucks fans) lacked. So yes, I’m asking them to get some perspective on things. What’s wrong with that?

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  13. Locky
    November 28, 2011

    Don’t let HFboards see this… Such rationality and calm is heresy of the highest order!

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  14. sareddy
    November 29, 2011

    Over the years of being a hockey and Canucks fan, I’ve gone from overly-emotional to level-headed and it’s great to have a level-headed blog such as this that echoes my sentiments to a tee.

    I’m glad you and Harrison are getting the attention you deserve for the quality work you two have produced so prolifically in such a short period of time. And, most importantly, I’m glad you two haven’t had to stoop to the level of many sports “journalists” who resort to sensationalizing and fabricating stories that just aren’t true.

    It’s definitely a tough job to be able to write about someone when you don’t know them personally, and your only interaction with them is through the ever-scrutinizing lens of the camera. However, Pass It To Bulis pulls it off with panache AND excellent grammar.

    Keep up the great work!

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  15. tom selleck's moustache
    November 29, 2011

    And here I thought this was going to be an article about Luongo and Schneider being caught doing unspeakable acts with each other

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  16. keepschneidertradeluongo
    November 29, 2011

    Probably Luongo is more consistent in regular season at this point in his career… playoffs another story, as he gives up key goals at inopportune times and seems nervous… big issue is price tag, as we could get one or two upgrades if we got rid of his contract.

    That’s my opinion.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      November 29, 2011

      Luongo’s cap hit is $5.3 million. Good luck finding “one or two upgrades” that would actually be upgrades on our current depth.

      And Luongo just came off a playoff run where he posted two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final. If the Canucks had managed to figure out how to score on Tim Thomas, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

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      • keepschneidertradeluongo
        November 29, 2011

        Luongo wasn’t the main issue in the finals last year, I agree, and maybe we should take a look at how many games he “stole” vs how many games he “lost” over the whole of the playoffs, which I haven’t done.

        I still think you could get a pretty good upgrade with the difference in salary. There should be some demand for him as he would be a good goalie for a team looking to go from non-playoff team to playoff team as he is a steady performer. Also, I personally don’t get the sense that he is going to lead the Canucks (or any team) to a Stanley Cup based on his performance in the playoffs over the last three years taken as a whole. If we get the right opportunity to make upgrade(s) in areas of need, I say pull the trigger on a deal.

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        • Daniel Wagner
          November 29, 2011

          And how much money will Schneider want in the off-season? And what if he turns out to be akin to Raycroft and Mason rather than being a truly elite goaltender? There are way too many risks involved.

          And you don’t think Luongo can lead a team to a Stanley Cup? I guess we’ll agree to disagree, since he did just post two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final. 1-0 shutouts at that, which is about as close to stealing a game as you can get. Like it or not, Luongo gave the Canucks a chance to win that series and the team just couldn’t score on Thomas.

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          • keepschneidertradeluongo
            November 30, 2011

            I disagree. Luongo has had his chance, and has failed, he is a good goalie, but is not a great goalie… he is a good option but not the best option… we need a cup, Schneider will do fine in goal if a good trade comes along for Luongo that helps us get closer to the Stanley Cup, we need to do it….

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  17. J21
    November 29, 2011

    Perspective — yes, but perhaps ironic when you have a newborn to take care of here! :) (As I posted on the last IWTG, so glad my daughter was born durin preseason).

    Agreed with this analysis, but there is one x-factor that can’t be excluded: changes in Luongo’s physical shape. If injuries are beginning to take a toll, as they do on every player, it’s possible he could experience a decline. Not saying that’s what’s happening, but it’s also less and less realistic to expect past performance to predict future performance the older a player gets.

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  18. john
    November 29, 2011

    Sometimes writers use numbers too much. The Canuck’s when playing well will make any goalie good.
    The shots come from outside and the save percentage and wins go up.

    What Shneider has done is show people that when the team isn’t playing great hockey he can steal a win.

    That is something Luongo has rarely done, he is as good as the team in front of him. Case in point when it got tough against Boston he couldn’t steal a game the way Thomas seemingly stole many games.

    Common sense tells me that Shneider has a way bigger upside.

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    • Benny
      November 29, 2011

      Wait… but the Canucks WON 3/7 games in the Stanley cup final, and only scored 8 goals… I don’t understand how a team could do that without a goalie stealing a couple games. In fact, he had two shutouts, and Vancouver was outshot by Boston in both of those games. Going to a game seven with a goals for per game average of 1.14 requires some catburgleresque goaltending.

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  19. beninvictoria
    November 29, 2011

    just wanted to say that in the original interview luongo said corey had been “working his bag off for years”

    jordan schroeder only worked his bag off for a couple months! so kudos to Corey

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  20. Chazz Ranger
    November 30, 2011

    I’m absolutely ok with Luongo being a 5.3K cap hit backup goaltender. For 6 seasons he’s never had to fight for his job. Let’s see how competitive he can be. I would love to see Schneids play more, a lot more. Luongo is consistant, but Schneider is just technically a better goaltender. As in, his technique. Where Luongo has become a sloppy, stick-throwing, belly-flopping mess, Schneider is calm, solid and intuitive.. Sure, he can’t keep this up forever, but it isn’t a streak. He’s just good.

    Lou will never recover his confidence after this anyway, so it’s all moot. Have we seen the pressure get to him before? Absolutely. How has he handled it? Not so good. Is there even more pressure on him now than before? Damn straight.

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  21. kim
    November 30, 2011

    Sisters. That’s a new one. I demand a better quality troll.

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  22. B's fan loving the misery
    December 6, 2011

    I find it amusing that there are so many Luongo believers.
    He hasn’t looked solid since before the Olympics (he was fighting the puck that whole USA game).
    As I recall, the reason he was in Game 7 vs Chicago was because Scheidner was hurt.

    I find it more amusing that your franchise has the albatross of his contract for the next 10 years (until 2011, when the cap number goes down).

    By the way, Thomas lost his starting job to Rask due to an injury (maybe you didn’t hear him thank his hip surgeon during his Viezna acceptance speech last year – I know: too painful to watch/listen), not due to a mental collapse (like a western conference goalie you may know).

    But you keep pumping his tires.
    We’ll see how that works out for you.

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