With the playoff opener about 55 hours away, it's time we took a glance at the Hawks' opposition in the first round, our old friends the Vancouver Canucks. This examination will start in Vancouver's cage, where we find Sideshow Bob, Roberto Luongo.
|2010 - Roberto Luongo||60||3590||38||15||126||2.11||1753||1627||.928||4|
Luongo is entering this playoff year on the heels of his best season as a pro with regard to goals against, averaging 2.11, and his second best in save percentage, .928 (second to .931 in 03-04 with Florida), leading him to his first ever Jennings trophy for fewest goals allowed, and will certainly put him in the conversation for the Vezina. In any other year it would be Borat's to lose, but some guy in Boston may have a thing or two to say about that.
The book on Luongo is the same as it ever was: big, athletic, positionally sound while playing deep in his net, and a penchant for making highlight reel saves. But as he's exhibited in the past, there are holes in his game that can be exploited. For all his size, Luongo plays deep in his net, and as a result is susceptible to screens and traffic in front (what goalie isn't), a fact a giant black man made himself a folk hero by exploiting the last two years. Lu will also give up rebounds if there's traffic in front and the shots come low.
The biggest thing with Luongo has been (and will continue to be until he proves otherwise) his gray matter. The goals against seem to come in bunches, particularly in Vancouver, where he allowed 7 goals on 65 shots in two encounters during the regular season, as opposed to a single marker courtesy of Viktor Stalberg on 64 shots at the United Center. This is keeping in mind that he was yanked after letting in 4 on 20 shots in the 7-1 maiming. It's also been the case in the last two playoff series against the Hawks, allowing 17 goals in 3 games at home last year as opposed to 5 (with one EN) in 3 games at the UC. In 2009, he allowed 13 goals in 3 games in BC, and 9 in Chicago, with one of those games being the outlying, tear-inducing performance of Game 6 wherein 6 got by Bob before the empty netter. For whatever the reasons may be, the pressure of the home crowd seems to have Luongo playing the game on his heels in Vancouver, though he's far from the only guilty party in that respect on the Nucks.
Once again the Canucks started chirping in the press well before the final matchups had been determined that they looked forward to facing the Hawks again, and claimed to be a different team, though the principals remain the same. The fact remains that even though absolutely everything seems to be set up for them, the onus is on them to prove they can best the Hawks, a fact they're more than a little aware of. This starts with Luongo, and it will be imperative to get to him early in the series at home where he's had difficulties, and allow that old gnawing doubt to creep back in...and the rebounds to pop out. With Dustin Byfuglien now busy winning Norris Trophies in Atlanta, it's now incumbent on the likes of Tomas Kopecky, Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, and Troy Brouwer (if he's healthy) to plant themselves in front of Sideshow Bob. It's worked in the past, and it will have to again for the Hawks to advance.