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Luongo Keeps Division Hopes Alive

“Vintage Panther game,” chuckled the captain, referring to his Florida days when he would routinely face 40 shots. “If I can make those saves early, I can get in a comfort zone. You feel it right away.

We’ve worked extremely hard to get where we are. But we’ve got to make sure we tidy up so that once Game 82 is done, we’re ready to go for Game 1 [of the playoffs].”  

“Our game is nowhere near where it should be,” Canuck forward Ryan Kesler agreed.

“We need to tighten up all over the ice. You never like to criticize a win, but if Louie didn’t play the way he did, we might have lost 8-0 or 9-0. It wasn’t a very good effort. There’s lots we have to tighten up before the playoffs or we’re going to be four [games] and out.”

Veteran Ryan Johnson said: “It’s a win, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like jubilation in the room. Louie played unbelievable and the penalty killing came up big. Besides that, there wasn’t much to feel good about.”

Well, that about sums it up … the Flames were clearly the better team on the night, and if not for Luongo's out-of-this-universe play, the Canucks would be looking to maintain 5th place instead of still having a chance at claiming the North West Division title and the 3rd seeding and home-ice that comes with it.

After 3 sub-par performances for the Captain that saw his team give up 14 goals in losses to Anaheim, Edmonton and Colorado, the Canucks' best player proved his mettle with perhaps his best single game since succumbing to the Ducks 2-1 two years ago in the playoffs when he and his mates were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

I've said it before, and as much as I hate to repeat myself, the man has an immense amount of pride and no one works harder to be the best he can be and wants to win more than Luongo. To come up with that game, virtually turning things around in his own game at will, with everything on the line, says everything about what he is and how he can single-handedly win a game by himself.

This is why many consider him to be the best Goaltender in the world. He has taken much criticism this season, much of it justified, but more of it not. He has set the bar so high that anything less than Luongoesque is looked at as failure … much like Tiger Woods, who is in a slump if he goes 4 events without beating 155 other guys in a Golf Tournament, sometimes you just can't win in the eyes of both the fans and “experts.”

The positive spin on all of that is that Athletes like Tiger and Bobby Lou's competitiveness and drive to be the best gets cranked up a notch or five when they are “called out” … he'll never admit it, but almost every time Luongo rebounds as if to slam it in the doubter's faces.

Yesterday in the Calgary Herald the headline read “Captain Luongo Letting Canucks Nation Down”  … the article went on to say, er, sensationalize with countless mish-mashing gibberish; numerous inaccuracies and twisting of facts with off-the-wall “analysis”:

Call it bad luck, call it fate, but the Flames have found themselves stymied by netminders who are at the top of their game.That will likely not be the case tonight in Vancouver. While the Canucks mounted a brilliant run to make up a 13-point deficit and catch Calgary for the Northwest lead, their star goalie and captain Roberto Luongo has struggled since returning from a serious leg injury. 

To the consternation of Vancouver management and fans, their best player simply hasn't stepped up as advertised. Luongo's erratic play largely escaped criticism while the Canucks' forwards and defenceman were red-hot in their 20-5-1 streak. The whiffs and bobbles were written off to rust from the extended six-week stay Luongo spent on the injury list. Give 'im time, they said.

Well, time has passed, but with the club slumping to three straight losses as they head into tonight's showdown with Calgary at GM Place, followers of the Canucks are coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that Vancouver may have to win in spite of their highly paid goalie.

Now, there's little doubt that Lui hasn't been at his best in every game he has played since returning to the team after missing two months, but his goals-against and save percentage stats had been rapidly improving (prior to the most recent 3 games) while he cranked out the wins… and I would just like to send my personal thanks to Bruce Dowbriggin for penning such an impeccable piece of motivational material for our best player prior to the biggest game of the year.

The prevailing opinion is that winning the Division is more important to Calgary than it is to the Canucks since they held a 13-point lead as recently as a little over two months ago. While the Canucks have surged since then, the Flames have stumbled. With last night's defeat they are now 6-10 in their last 16, and there is a real possibility that jobs are on the line.

The games that really matter don't start until next week and a long run in the playoffs can erase a lot of bad memories, so even if the Canucks should somehow manage to pull this off, things could stay the same in Management, but there is little doubt that doubt is prevalent east of The Rockies.

The Flames played as if this game meant more to them than it did the Canucks … it wasn't as if it was a total no-show by the home-side, but Calgary dictated the pace for the vast majority of the game and outshot the hosts 47-25 on the night.

The Canucks prevailed in rope-a-dope fashion to tie their rivals atop the Division, but the Flames still hold the best cards in this game. The Canucks need to pass them in points to have 1st place after game #82 is said and done, as the Flames hold the first tie-breaker in wins.

The Flames have a back-to-back left on the schedule against Edmonton starting Friday while the Canucks have LA and Colorado left to play on Thursday and Saturday. As the individual games are played, both will be in the books repectively by the time the Flames take the ice for their games, so there will be absolutely no excuses should Calgary fail to finish first in the NW.

Edmonton was eliminated from playoff contention last night, but that doesn't mean they won't be up for facing the Flames trying to spoil the party in the latest editions of The Battle Of Alberta. Calgary is still in control as the Canucks have to win out to even have a chance … you would think, but stranger things have happened, and at the very least last night's 4-1 by the Canucks will make the final few days of the regular season more interesting.

Of more concern than winning the Division here on the Left Coast is that the Canucks get back to their once solid defensive play. The team's Bread & Butter is currently little more than Stale Crumbs with a bit of No-Name Brand Margarine thrown in for good measure, and the last 4 games are clearly a wake-up call for the Boys.

As the quotes above implied, the players aren't stupid. They know they're not playing very well right now and the coaches will have a very attentive group when they preach what needs to be done over these last few days as they prepare for the post-season.

The best part of the Canucks' run over the last 10 weeks is that rarely have they relied on Luongo to steal a game. The worst part of their game over the last week or so, starting with the win against Minnesota, is that they have done pretty much nothing but. Another win or two in very winnable games and they would be free & clear right now with home ice almost a done deal, but as per usual, nothing ever comes easy for this team.

Winning the Division is important, but far more crucial is getting back to what they do best, and there's only 2 more chances to try and “find it.”

Last night's effort was vastly improved over Sunday&#
039;s (could it have been any worser?) and was yet another example of how this team has been able to win games in different ways this year, and that is a good thing. However, in all likelihood, it won't translate into a long run this spring should they leave it all up to the guy between the pipes.

Luongo has been the team's Ace Up Their Sleeve while they've been the best team in the league since the start of February, but their expectations for themselves will come far from being realized should they leave everything up to their best player to win games by himself.


The Grades … 

A+ (oh-so-rarely handed out) … Loooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

A … Mitchell

B … Ohlund, Kesler, Rypien, Johnson

C+ … Salo, Bieksa, O'Brien, Sundin, Henrik, Daniel, Burrows, Hordichuk, Wellwood

C … Edler, Bernier, Raymond

C- … Demitra

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In response to “Luongo Keeps Division Hopes Alive”

  1. doctordrake Apr 8 20099:27 am


    That was an entertaining game! I wouldn't say that that was one of the Canucks best games, but it was one of Lu's. I remember before we had Luongo some analyst brought up his stats when he faced 40 or more shots in a game and they were very very good. It seems like he prefers to be busy. I read that article by BD before the game and I think Lu might have too by the way he played. What a terrible (sensationalized was a good word to use) article BTW. People in glass houses should not be throwing stones. I also want to comment on Mitchell. He is an absolute warrior. You noticed him pretty much every shift. I'm curious Mark, what is your preferred 1st round match up for the Canucks? For me it's CHI@VAN.

  2. Mark Gage Apr 8 200910:06 am


    I heard Lui on the Radio after the Blog was written and he was asked “does the name Bruce Dowbriggin means anything to you?” … he said no and that he never reads the papers, blah, blah, blah, just like I said when he would deny it … I gty he knew about it, they always do … if he didn't read it someone told him about it.I'd actually prefer starting IN Chicago, so I'm secretly hoping the Flames take the NW … Hawks are young and inexperienced and I think might be very nervous with the pressure after a very good year and the first time in the playoffs in 8 years(?) will have the already rabid fans (22,000 per game) jacked and a lack of success early could really hurt them, imo … also think the pressure here is big and the Canucks on the road to start may be the best thing for them regardless of opponent, as sad as that sounds. All of that could hurt tho in the second round with having to face Det or SJ but I'd be willing to take my chances.

  3. doctordrake Apr 8 200912:40 pm


    Interesting point. Taking a look at the standings it seems fairly likely you'll get your wish. Either way I think it's a good match up for us. As far as I am concerned the Canucks are far better equipped to win in the playoffs than the Blackhawks are. Youth & grit I think will be a problem for them. As I'm sure you well know the playoffs are nothing like the regular season and I suspect the young Hawks are going to learn that the hard way.

  4. Alex Hamilton Apr 8 20091:02 pm


    I was so frustrated with last night's game that I couldn't get my blog up until this afternoon. Gotta agree with this blog though. Forgot about the Dowbiggin thing – I was going to mention that in my blog, completely forgot. I despise Dowbiggin and as soon as I saw that stupid column yesterday I knew it was a bad omen. I see Canucks fans seem comfortable about potentially playing Chicagp. That's the opposite of what Flames fans think. How about this, you lose one of your two games and we split vs. Edmonton, everyone wins?

    1. Mark Gage Apr 8 20091:50 pm


      LOL … I've noticed that too … probably something to do with us outscoring them 11-3 in the last two games and 4 zip in Chicago less than two weeks ago. I'd still pick the Flames over the Hawks if Regehr is back … he's your key, imo.No deal man, both teams need to win out to get their chit together, then maybe we'll hook up in Round #2 or #3 for an unbelievable series!

  5. Kassim Kamani Apr 9 20096:43 pm


    Mark why do u think the Sedins get such little respect here, MVP for the team talk, and combined they only get like 13% of the vote. They have 81 points each or something. I understand that Burrows and Kesler are both huge huge parts of the team, but I just don't understand why these two guys have such little support here.

    1. Mark Gage Apr 10 20093:09 am


      Mark why do u think the Sedins get such little respect here, MVP for the team talk, and combined they only get like 13% of the vote. They have 81 points each or something. I understand that Burrows and Kesler are both huge huge parts of the team, but I just don't understand why these two guys have such little support here.

      I haven't seen the percenatges of how the vote went … but they had stiff competition with Fric & Frac and some guy named Luongo too.I don't think the 13 is too surprising … ya it's a bit of slap in the face, but has far more to do with Kesler & Burrows completely capturing the imagination of the entire city … everyone thought they'd be neck-and-neck for the MVP so I could see them both being in the 40's in the voting.I've written numerous pieces on the Sedins and how they are under-appreciated and how valuable they are, especially considering their TOI per game compared to the league's top scorers over the last 3 years. Personally I believe it's a “you don't know what ya got until it's gone thing” and that many just take those points-per-game stats (and their being under-paid!) for granted, and it's unfair and dumb, but everyone has their opinions … however they had absolutely no chance in this as Kes and Burr were by far the more sexier stories and a landslide vote was not unexpected, imo… and my guy won so I'm happy

      1. Kassim Kamani Apr 10 20093:59 pm


        haha, ur guy did win, and yah don't get me wrong, I knew that either fric or frac were gonna win, and they do deserve it. It just boggles my mind how under appreciated the twins are. I hope they resign here so we don't have to witness not knowing what we have.

  6. Alex Hamilton Apr 10 20097:37 pm


    congrats on winning the division.

  7. Mark Gage Apr 11 20092:07 am


    A wee bit premature, but thanks! :P Boy, the Cap issues really came back to haunt you guys … I said it before that Sutter probably had to go for it this year as the “window” is closing a bit, but man-o-man, he really F'd it up … Flyers in similar shape (not nearly as many guys injured) but still using some college kid on a tryout for a game cuz that's all they could afford … unlucky to get that many injuries but you gotta manage the Cap.

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