Considering the epic ineptitude of the Vancouver powerplay through the 2-game set at Rogers Arena, you'd have to be insane to claim Roberto Luongo is the reason the Canucks fly into Los Angeles down 2. Heck, even among his ardent haters, most would assert that Luongo's been a standout in the early stages of the Canucks postseason.
But with the team a loss away from a 3-game deficit, the early stages are beginning to look a lot like the late stages. Luongo's been excellent, sure, but the team still needs some sort of shakeup to get back in this series and a Schneider start was just shy of an automatic win for the Canucks in the regular season's back half. He won 13 of his final 17 decisions.
Could this be Schneider's second chance at a Cam Ward moment?
Schneider was given a surprise start in Game 6 of the Canucks' first round series with the Chicago Blackhawks last postseason, and a strong, winning performance in that instance might have seen him retain the starter's job into the second round. Instead, however, Schneider cost his team two goals with puckhandling errors, then cramped up on Michael Frolik's penalty shot goal -- the only penalty shot he's failed to stop in his career -- and had to leave the game.
Not exactly a Conn Smythe performance.
Just as it was then, puckhandling will be the big issue for Schneider (also known as the Red-Headed Stop Child). While he's improved in a lot of areas this season, he continues to struggle with the puck behind the goal, and with the Kings' physical, speedy forecheck, he'll have to be flawless. No bobbles. No suicide passes. Give the puck only to teammates.
For what it's worth, I think all the speculation over who would get the start in goal for the Canucks has been pretty damn dumb. The real issue is special teams. But I'll cop to an argument from Thomas Drance of Canucks Army: Schneider might also be able to help the Canucks out even here.
Special teams save-percentage numbers are based on tiny, non-predictive samples, but with the Canucks bleeding goals against both short-handed and on the power-play, it's certainly worth seeing if Schneider can help reverse that. Schneider's excellent short-handed save percentage will assuredly regress from its current heights over his next fifty or so starts, but it's worth seeing if he can continue to ride those percentages in the short-term.
The Canucks' goal differential on their own powerplay is now minus-2, and one postseason trend Canuck fans can attest to is Roberto Luongo's tendency to give up back-breaking shorthanded goals. They're rarely his fault, really -- typically the result of terrible turnovers from the last man back -- but even so, he's now surrendered 10 shorthanded goals in his last 3 postseasons, many on breakaways when forwards get him to fall forward onto his belly moving side to side, as Dustin Brown did Thursday.
If the Canucks' powerplay struggles once again with its control during zone entries and Cory Schneider is able to turn the seemingly inevitable, back-breaking, shorthanded goal into the big shorthanded save, that in itself might be enough to turn this series around.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney
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