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Thursday April 14, 2011 6:37 pm

Roberto Luongo blanks Chicago Blackhawks in series opener




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, NHL, Playoffs,

Roberto Luongo

The Vancouver Canucks are facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL playoffs for the third straight season. For the last two, they’ve lost both times in six games, and the blame has largely been placed on Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo for collapsing in the high pressure situation. It’s something that he’s being dealing with for his entire career. On Wednesday night, the two teams started another series while many wondered how Luongo would hold up, and he answered the call by shutting out Chicago 2-0.

Luongo put on a show against the Hawks, moving quickly from side to side, reading the puck well and stopping all 32 shots that came his way. It was exactly what he needed; a strong first of what will hopefully be 16 playoff victories. What’s more foreboding for Luongo is that, like last night, his Canucks won the first game of the prior two series against Chicago as well, both of which ended in an unexpected exit from the playoffs five games later.

If Luongo falters for any reason, head coach Alain Vigneault may not hesitate much before swapping him for backup Cory Schneider, who has proven to be a very capable goalie this season. His numbers were nearly identical to Luongo’s, except in less than half as many games. In 60 games, Luongo posted a 38-15-7 record with a 2.11 goals against average and .928 save percentage. Schneider, in 25 games, was 16-4-2 with a 2.23 goals against average and an even better .929 save percentage.

The victory is a good start for Luongo, but he still has to prove himself a few more times before he fully wins the confidence of the Canucks faithful. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the world, but has shown an incredible level of shaky play. In his last three postseasons, he has a 17-17 record overall. While game one in a seven game series sets the tone for the rest, game two is always more important, and how Luongo answers the call on Friday night will be very telling of where he is in 2011.

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