It’s hard to imagine Steve Yzerman sleeping very soundly after the last 24 hours of NHL action, given he’s going to have to make a choice on a starting goalie for his Canadian Olympic team early next month.
Roberto Luongo had him dozing like he was doing a sleep-aid commercial up until Sunday night when he suddenly took a cue from Mike Smith at the other end, the Phoenix goalie and fellow Team Canada member, leaking pucks like he was trying to stop water from flowing downhill with his pads. It was so bad that even the Vancouver Canucks got five goals against him, and given the way Carey Price has been playing with the Habs of late, Luongo looked to be the starter without anyone even giving it a second thought.
But then there was that first of three goals that Antoine Vermette scored whereby Luongo steered the puck into his own goal.
And then the Shane Doan goal leaked through his pads tying the game at four, albeit on a breakaway, as this game was as loosely played as this Canucks team has experienced since they were blown out in Anaheim.
And while Luongo wasn’t terribly culpable on the others, Yzerman has to hope that this game was an aberration for Lui, who was littering pucks in the form of rebounds all over the ice as well.
And assuming it was a one-off, this has in fact been one of the best seasons of Luongo’s career, even though there have been other campaigns with more wins, more shutouts and better numbers. He’s full value for his front-running status as Canada’s starter.
Whereas the Team Canada goaltending job looked like Price’s most of the season, it’s now clearly swung over to Luongo’s possession to lose, with Smith playing poorly enough in this one that people will be thinking that Kevin Lowe and Kevin Lowe alone was given the job of naming Canada’s third goalie. Smith has given up 15 in his last four games and it’s impossible for him to look anything but inept in doing that.
“It was just one of those games when yes, there weren’t a lot of shots, but the ones that were coming to the net were kind of broken plays or a lot of weird bounces,” said a dejected Smith. “But in saying that, it’s one of those games when you’ve got to battle and compete harder to try to find pucks and I didn’t give it enough tonight.”
So Smith is pretty much a writeoff, despite the fact that in a perfect world with everyone playing their best he would be the best choice to play on the wide European ice surface, given how deep in the net he plays.
But that’s not happening and to keep Yzerman from losing his hair Luongo needs to come back strongly in his next start, which could be as early as tonight against the Oilers, a team that has some gunners, although they haven’t been doing a whole lot of sniping this season.
“It was one of those games when it felt like the puck was just bouncing in from everywhere,” said Luongo, who was happy with the five goals at the other end to rescue him from his first less-than-stellar evening in a long while. “The good thing is we got the win. When you have games like that and get the win it’s always positive.
“Three out of those four goals, you usually get those in a month’s span, but they came tonight and we still got the win. We scored five tonight, which is nice. It’s not something we’re going to get every game, but when you do, it’s nice to get them when you need them. The puck was finding its way in, but we get the win anyway.”
Luongo was certainly deserving of getting a break from the traditional Western Conference droning where goals are in short supply. The bizarre part of the five goals the Canucks did get is that none of them came on their laughable power play, which has sunk to 28th in the league and couldn’t even produce on an extended 4-on-3 at the outset of the overtime period.
The pleasant way the evening turned out kept the Canucks limping toward a playoff spot, but you can be sure it did nothing for Stevie Y.
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