Canucks lay an egg, kick-start new goalie debate in lop-sided loss (with goalie poll)
Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (right) comes off the bench to replace goalie Cory Schneider after Schneider allowed a five goals to the Anaheim Ducks during second period NHL action in Vancouver on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013.
Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER — “@NHL #Canucks fans, are you ready to see Cory Schneider as No. 1 in net? #hockeyisback.”
“@Strombone1 Can’t wait!!!!”
This was on Friday, Roberto Luongo’s social media persona responding — in character, playing the good-humour man — to the teaser sent out by the National Hockey League’s official Twitter account.
How soon they forget.
Saturday night, late in a day of ceremonies and welcome-backs around the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks ran general manager Mike Gillis and captain Henrik Sedin out to centre ice at Rogers Arena to thank the faithful for their patience and loyalty and to call them the best fans in professional sports — and then pooped the bed, losing 7-3 to the Anaheim Ducks, who are hardly anyone’s pick to make the playoffs.
And Schneider lasted 26 minutes and 37 seconds. Oh, dear.
It wasn’t the only egg laid on opening day, by any means.
The Montreal Canadiens did the torch thing, passing it from legend to legend to legend (give or take Vincent Damphousse) — Yvan Cournoyer, Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau and finally to captain Brian Gionta — one of those patented Montreal heart-tuggers that only the Habs can pull off in their home cathedral.
And then lost to the Maple Leafs, and looked awfully pedestrian doing it.
The Los Angeles Kings handed out the Stanley Cup rings, passed the Cup around, shone the spotlight on the new banner in the Staples Center rafters to join all the ones belonging to the Lakers — and then got slapped around by the Chicago Blackhawks.
But the Canucks’ egg was big enough to have been laid by an ostrich.
Just to clarify, it wasn’t Gillis who soiled himself in the Canucks’ curtain-raiser Saturday, it was his hockey club, although you never know how the boss’s innards were behaving while the designated No. 1, Schneider, was getting ventilated for five goals on 14 shots, forcing Alain Vigneault to tap old @Strombone1 on the shoulder at 6:37 of the second period and send him in on a hopeless rescue mission.
“How did it look?” Vigneault said, to a query about his starting goaltender’s evening. “You know, he tried hard. You’re going to get nights like that.”
The fans, who had booed liberally as the score mounted, greeted Luongo like a long-lost son, roaring their approval from the moment he doffed his baseball cap and plopped the mask on the top of his head until he sprinted to the net, reaching a top-end speed rarely glimpsed before.
As with Manti Te’o and his non-existent dead girlfriend, you can’t make this stuff up.
“It was disappointing for everybody. I really wasn’t expecting to go in,” said Luongo, who didn’t want to make too much of the switch, or of Schneider’s abortive debut.
“The kid’s got a tremendous amount of talent, I’m not worried about him at all. It’s one game. He’s so strong mentally, he’ll have no problem bouncing back.”
Still, think of the irony.
Luongo, almost everyone agreed, should have been traded long ago.
Those fans and media who didn’t believe that Gillis had overplayed his hand by waiting for the perfect offer that probably never would arrive nonetheless wrote off his standard responses — “Roberto Luongo is one of the premier goalies in hockey, and we’re not going to give him away” and “We have two great goaltenders; I don’t see how that’s a problem” — as understandable attempts at self-preservation. To cover the possibility that he had ... well, overplayed his hand.
And then Schneider’s debut as the unquestioned first-string backstop blew up spectacularly — aided and abetted, in fairness, by his teammates — and Gillis, once the shock wore off, must have been thinking: “On the bright side, Roberto’s still here, and we might be needing him.”
Man’s a genius.
“You know what, it doesn’t matter what market I’m in,” Schneider said of the daily circus around the goaltending situation. “If I played this way, it would be unacceptable anywhere in the world. You have to be accountable and responsible and you have to perform and produce, and tonight I didn’t perform or produce — and that’s on me.”
To recount all the ways the various shots eluded Schneider and, in his turn, Luongo would be to belabour the obvious: the Canucks were awful, as they often seem to be against the Ducks, who haven’t lost a regulation-time game to the Canucks at Rogers Arena in nearly three years now.
No Canucks team in 41 previous home openers — and that includes some pretty horrific teams — had ever given up seven goals. These Canucks did, at a time when they’re trying to convince potential trading partners that they have goaltenders to spare, or at least one.
It’s too early to say they’re wrong about that.
But not too early to worry.
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