Roberto Luongo will start his second game in a row tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, a move that seems to contradict any assertions that Cory Schneider is the number one goaltender for the Canucks. If Alain Vigneault were just riding the hot hand, it would make sense: Luongo has been, objectively speaking, the better goaltender to start the season, posting a .917 save percentage and 2.21 goals against average as compared to Schneider’s .897 and 3.13.
The issue is that Vigneault has claimed that isn’t his strategy. Supposedly, he and Rollie Melanson mapped out the two goaltenders starts well in advance and it’s entirely possible that Luongo was slated to start against the Avalanche right from the start of the season. Accordingly, this wouldn’t be the sign of a goaltending controversy or any indication that the Canucks lack confidence in Schneider.
So what would? How do we know when there actually is a goaltending controversy in Vancouver?
It’s not like Schneider’s been bad. Context should be considered when looking at his statistics. For two of his four starts, the team in front of him gave up too many scoring chances with giveaways and poor positioning in the defensive zone, leading to 5 goals against on just 14 shots in the season opener against the Ducks and 4 goals against on 27 shots against the Sharks.
In his other two starts, Schneider has looked fantastic, making 34 saves against Calgary in a 3-2 shootout win and shutting out the Ducks in their home opener. With his season just four starts old, it’s far too soon to make any judgements on his work as a number one goaltender. It seems likely that he’ll settle in over the course of the season and be just fine.
It’s possible that we’ve just misjudged Vigneault’s intentions, assuming that Schneider would get the bulk of the starts this season. I argued back in October that having both Schneider and Luongo for a condensed season made sense to avoid fatigue and injuries with the compressed schedule; it’s possible that Vigneault intends to more evenly split the starts of both goaltenders, taking advantage of having two number one goaltenders while he still has them.
It’s also possible that Vigneault is trying to split up the starts as much as he possibly can now, in the off chance that a Luongo trade occurs later on this season, and he winds up having to use Schneider with more frequency down the stretch. If the Canucks are planning a long playoff run, it sure makes sense to make sure their guy — presumably, Schneider — is well-rested for when it starts.
But maybe it wasn’t planned out as far in advance as Vigneault originally led us to believe:
#Canucks AV says decision to start Luongo was simply “my decision.” Said made it when got back from trip on Tuesday.
— Jim Jamieson (@JamiesonCanucks) January 30, 2013
If the decision was made on Tuesday, that just raises further questions. Does Vigneault now intend to ride the hot hand? Is he saving Schneider for the rivalry game against the Chicago Blackhawks? Is Vigneault giving the easier game against the Avalanche to the “backup”? Perhaps as a means of showcasing Luongo for that long-awaited trade?
Or is there actually a goaltending controversy? Is there a possibility that Luongo will steal back the number one job and make Mike Gillis’s job a lot harder in the off-season?Tags: Cory Schneider, goaltending controversy, Roberto Luongo