Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo shouldn’t be nervous about tonight’s game seven against the Chicago Blackhawks.
He shouldn’t be embarrassed about earning tonight’s start because Cory Schneider, the backup who replaced him in game six is hurt (but feeling better).
Everyone wants to be the goalie who dominates his way through the playoffs. Everyone wants to be Patrick Roy, all confidence and bravado, using each glove save as an opportunity to both pose and intimidate.
But that doesn’t seem to be Luongo’s path. Luongo needs to think like a Carolina Hurricanes goaltender. Because when you think about post-season collaborative goaltending, you think about the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes needed two goalies to get to the Stanley Cup finals back in 2002. Goalie Arturs Irbe choked against the New Jersey Devils. Backup Kevin Weekes stepped in and helped Carolina defeat the Devils. Weekes eventually stumbled and Irbe had his starting job back by the finals, which Carolina wound up losing to Detroit in five games.
And then, in 2006, the Hurricanes once again went multi-goalie.
Then-Hurricane coach Peter Laviolette toggled between Cam Ward and Martin Gerber, riding each goalie through the playoffs until the goalie went cold, and then flipping to the other one. Ward eventually started the finals and Carolina won their Cup.
And Peter Laviolette is still a huge fan of Post-Season Goalie Roulette.
Luongo needs to tap into the proud NHL tradition of goalies who need some help to move their team along the playoff ladder.
Even Jaroslav Halak, one of the hundreds of heroic goalies to appear in last year’s playoffs, needed some help from his backup, Carey Price, to get the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals.
Roberto Luongo needs to think about these goalies. The goalies who aren’t flawless. The goalies who have been pulled. The goalies who have been chased. The goalies who have hung in there long enough to help their teams win a Cup (or at least make a deep run into the playoffs).
Before the playoffs started, Irbe, now a goalie coach for the Capitals, gave a pep talk to Washington’s trio of goaltenders, emphasizing the value of goaltending redundancy. Washington’s Michal Neuvirth needed no goaltending backup to get the Caps to the second round, but Irbe’s message still needs to be heard.
Not all goalies can do it alone. Apparently Luongo is one of those goalies. The sooner he comes to terms with that, the sooner Vancouver can move past the Blackhawks.
Assuming Luongo doesn’t get shelled again.