Oops ... goaltending ordinary as Canucks fall to Blues
Roberto Luongo loses third shootout
VANCOUVER - For the first time this season, the Vancouver Canucks' goaltending is ordinary. By no coincidence, the team's National Hockey League results are less than that.
Roberto Luongo allowed more than two goals for the first time, then went 0-for-2 in the shootout as the Canucks lost 4-3 Sunday to the St. Louis Blues.
Although Luongo said he needed to be better technically on the first two St. Louis goals, he wasn't nearly as culpable as co-starter Cory Schneider was in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars. But the ordinary play of two goalies who had been brilliant since opening night starkly reinforced how much the Canucks relied on Luongo and Schneider when Vancouver burst from the starting blocks 8-2-2.
After the winless weekend at Rogers Arena, the Canucks are 8-3-3.
It was impossible that Luongo would maintain a 1.45 goals-against average for the season – even a lockout-shortened 48-game campaign – or that Schneider would continue at his 1.57 pace since opening night. A market correction was coming.
The surprising part is that the weekend losses came against Blues' third-string goalie Jake Allen and Stars' backup Richard Bachman, and that the market correction – if that's what we're seeing – is striking Luongo and Schneider simultaneously.
“Whether it's an 82- or 48-game schedule, that's going to happen,” Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said. “As a group, I'd like to believe when our goaltenders are having a fair night or an average night, we can still come up and still get it done. I thought tonight we battled real hard. In the second period, everyone has to realize there's an opposition on the ice and they just took their game to a level we had a real tough time finding. But we responded well in the third, had opportunities to win the game and lost it in the shootout.”
Canuck Mason Raymond tied the game 3-3 with 1:47 remaining in regulation time, scoring with a quick shot on the power play after Dan Hamhuis's point shot hit St. Louis defenceman Roman Polak and squirted to the Vancouver winger. Alex Burrows had the best chance to win the game in overtime, but was stuffed on a breakaway.
Allen also stopped Burrows and Ryan Kesler in the shootout, while both Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie shot cleanly past Luongo.
“Don't you love that both goaltenders are so accountable and so competitive?” Vigneault said.
Actually, we do. It's indicative of accountability and character and leadership.
There is no question about any of these things with Luongo.
There is a question about who will start Tuesday in Chicago when the Canucks open a difficult four-game road trip against the soaring Blackhawks. Given Schneider's performance Friday, Luongo would have been the likely starter in Chicago had he played well on Sunday.
He was merely good, which wasn't good enough to beat a Blues' team that is scoring more than it did last season when it blew the Presidents' Trophy on the final weekend.
Vladimir Sobotka's sharp-angle shot, after the Blues' forward wheeled through Alex Edler's check, caromed off teammate Patrik Berglund and past Luongo for a go-ahead goal eight minutes into the third period.
“It actually went off Berglund's pants,” Luongo said. “I saw the puck coming to the net, went to make a save and it went off Berglund's pants and over my shoulder. It was a bad angle and stuff but, if anything, I think I needed to be better on the first two goals more than the last one.”
Oshie and McDonald scored the earlier St. Louis goals on rebounds, Oshie from David Backes' shot and McDonald after Vladimir Tarasenko's wrister hit the post. Both scoring chances were created by Canuck turnovers in the neutral zone – Zack Kassian and Edler, respectively – and on both Luongo was moving the wrong way on the initial shot and struggled to recover his position.
“I think I've got to make better plays technically on them,” he said. “I was caught a little bit off-balance on the first one. Usually, I don't fall over like that. As I was moving, (Backes) shot. I should have maybe stayed a bit deeper and been able to recover on the save. The second one, I got caught up on my post. Those were two mistakes by me I need to clean up.”
A goalie who carries a 1.45 GAA and .943 save rate has stratospheric standards.
The rest of the Canucks need to be a little better.
The team wasn't as good as it's 8-2-2 start, but the goaltending was fantastic.
Have the Canucks relied too much on Luongo and Schneider in the season's first month?
“Yes and no,” Raymond said after scoring for the fifth time in 14 games. “You look around the league and it doesn't matter where it is, you're not winning without good goaltending. Roberto held us in there tonight in the second period. Obviously, we can do better as a team collectively.”
The Canucks were outshot 11-4 in the middle period, before outshooting the Blues 14-3 in the third. Allen, summoned by the Blues from the American League due to an injury to Jaroslav Halak and shoddy play by Brian Elliott, finished with 28 saves. Luongo made 20.
Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin scored the other Canucks goals, Kesler on a pretty power-play setup by Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and Henrik on a clever feed by Burrows.
“(Luongo) has been awesome, and he played well today, too,” Danny Sedin said. “That was a good team over there; they're going to get their chances. We can't count on him making every save. We've got to score some goals, too.”
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