November 10, 2008
Now that Martin Brodeur is out of the Vezina Trophy race for the first time since the FOX glow puck was thought to be a good idea, Vancouver Canucks goaltender Robert Luongo is throwing his name into the mix -- as if it shouldn't be there on an annual basis anyway.
Since Brodeur's injury was announced last Monday, Luongo is 3-0 with three shutouts, including Saturday's 2-0 win over Minnesota. He's not let a puck past him in 201 minutes and 8 seconds. The franchise record is 212 minutes and 8 seconds, a record he has a chance to beat when the Canucks host the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Luongo already has five shutouts in only 14 starts this season.
Is this the year Luongo finally gets his due, now that Brodeur is out of the picture?
Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist and Miikka Kiprusoff are likely contenders for the Vezina, but if the Canucks can continue their hot start, it won't be long before Luongo finds himself as a worthy contender to be on the ballot.
According to Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, Luongo's play is helping feed the success of the rest of the team:
"Obviously it makes everybody's job a little bit easier," Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said of Luongo's play. "He has definitely found his groove and is playing with a lot of confidence and the guys in front of him are also doing a lot of good things out there."
The 29-year old was the defense while a member of the Florida Panthers. His nightly dose of 40-plus shots was the reason he was able to post a plus-.900 save pct. in South Florida.
Somewhere in South Florida, Panthers owner Alan Cohen is wondering how he could have okayed the Luongo deal with former general manager Mike Keenan. Todd Bertuzzi is now with Keenan in Calgary. Alex Auld is in Ottawa. Bryan Allen has had modest success and Lukas Krajicek is a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luckily for Cohen and the Panthers, they were able to steal Tomas Vokoun from Nashville.
Luongo is the perfect goalie for a team like the Canucks to ride into the playoffs. When he gets hot, very few teams have a chance to get any pucks by him.
As of Sunday, the Canucks were the third highest-scoring team in the National Hockey League, something that many were worried about heading into the season. Now, with their defense obviously solidified with Luongo, their captain, leading out of the back, if Vancouver's offense can continue to produce, then the Canucks should find themselves back in the playoffs easily.