For the first time in the Stanley Cup Final, Vancouver pulled its star goaltender from Game 4 at TD Garden (despite his allowing eight goals in Game 3). Opponents have now pulled their goaltender six times in the playoffs, with the Bruins winning five of those six games.
Like Philadelphia’s Brian Boucher and Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson before him, Luongo’s subpar play against the Bruins has now elicited calls for him to relinquish the starting role to his backup – in this case Cory Schneider.
While Luongo stopped just 16 of 20 shots last night, Schneider made nine saves on the same amount of shots in his Cup Final debut.
“I’m ready for anything but I’m not expecting one way or another,” said Schneider after the game. “I’m sure [Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault] will let us know. As far as I’m concerned, three lucky goals off our sticks, off our bodies and I’m not sure what Lou could have done differently on most of them so I don’t really see him at fault and that he deserves to play next game.”
Vigneault wasn’t asked about his goaltender decision and Luongo said he hadn’t talked to his coach about Friday night’s Game 5 yet. Luongo has been through this before, as he was pulled in both Game 4 and 5 of the Canucks’ first-round series against Chicago. Schneider even made the star in Game 6 before he had to leave with an injury.
Luongo stopped 12 of 13 shots in relief in the Game 6 overtime loss and then made 31 saves on 32 shots in the Game 7 overtime victory. He’s looking back at that bounce-back scenario for inspiration heading home to Vancouver.
“Yeah, of course. Right now we are two out of three with home-ice advantage. So obviously we would have liked to win one game here but we worked hard all year to get home-ice advantage so this is where it’s going to serve its purpose,” said Luongo. “We want to make sure we get playing the way we did in the first two home series and establish a good tempo and take it to them.”
For what it’s worth, Luongo’s teammates seem to have his back.
“Of course he can [bounce back]. He can,” said captain Henrik Sedin. “I mean, he’s been so good for us. Him, like anyone else, [Tim] Thomas has been struggling throughout the playoffs too, but if you’re a top goalie like they are, they’re going to bounce back. We have a lot of trust in Lou and he showed up for us every game. He’s going to show up next game as well.”
He might show up, but will he start? We might not know until the Game 5 warm-up. And then we won’t know if he’ll last the entire game until we see what gear the Bruins offense is in.