1. Luongo’s Playoff Performance
Roberto Luongo backstopped the Vancouver Canucks to the fourth round of the playoffs for just the third time in the franchise’s 40 years – and tied Tim Thomas for the NHL lead in playoff shutouts in 2011 with four – including two in the Stanley Cup final. Both “King” Richard Brodeur and “Captain” Kirk McLean are widely considered by Canucks fans to be among the best goalies in franchise history – but with the number of goals allowed in the four losses to Boston, Luongo will continue to battle his reputation. Yes, he was outplayed by Thomas, but so was everyone else in the NHL. That’s why the Bruin goalie got his name on the Conn Smythe trophy, and the Vezina trophy won’t be far behind.
There are 28 number one goaltenders in the NHL who would have loved to exchange places with Roberto Luongo these past few weeks. Three tried, but Corey Crawford, Pekka Rinne and Antti Niemi weren’t able to best him. Anyone trying to shoulder the goalie with sole responsibility for the loss (a) doesn’t understand the game, and (b) needs to consider that he deserves much of the credit for getting them as far as he did. Despite the fact that the Bruins limited the Canucks to just eight goals in the seven-game series, many people blame Luongo for the team’s defeat. Two of the Vancouver wins were 1-0 wins – without Luongo’s solid goaltending, Boston would have won this series going away.
2. A Goaltending Family
Born in Montreal, Roberto Luongo is the oldest of three brothers – all of them are goalies, but Roberto is the only one to have made the NHL. Both Fabio and Leo continue in hockey as coaches in Quebec junior hockey. While the Luongo brothers grew up in St Leonard, just blocks from Martin Brodeur’s family, Roberto’s favourite player growing up was Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr. An arena in St Leonard was named Roberto Luongo Arena in 2009.
Luongo won the President’s Cup – which goes to the best team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – with two different teams, the Val-d’Or Foreurs in 1998 and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 1999. Despite owning numerous QMJHL playoff records, Luongo earned a reputation for not showing up for big games when his teams went a combined 0-6 at consecutive Memorial Cup tournaments.
3. Roberto Luongo and Team Canada
This reputation continued despite impressive international play. Luongo won successive gold medals for Canada at the 2003 World Championships in Finland, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, and the 2004 World Championships in the Czech Republic. After a few major events backing up Martin Brodeur for Canada, Luongo took the reins for the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver. He famously became the first goaltender to win an Olympic gold medal in the same building that his NHL team calls home. In 23 appearances for Team Canada since turning pro, Luongo has 17 wins, two losses and three ties. He has posted four shutouts, and boasts an impressive 1.94 goals against average.
4. Luongo Was the Highest Ever Drafted Goalie
He was drafted fourth overall by the New York Islanders in 1997 NHL Entry Draft (behind Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Olli Jokinen, in case you were wondering). At the time, Luongo was picked higher than any other goalie in history – of course, just a few years later, the Isles would outdo themselves in picking Rick DiPietro first overall, and trade Bobby Lou to the Panthers.
5. Panthers’ Franchise Leader
On Long Island and in Florida, Luongo played for woeful teams, but he played a lot and gained the respect of just about everyone in the game. Success couldn’t be measured in playoff appearances – the Isles and Panthers are still perennial cellar dwellers in 2011 – but those annual early finishes gave him the chance to dress for 70+ regular season games each year, and then suit up for international tournaments (see #3 above). He finished his five seasons in the Sunshine State as the franchise leader in games played, wins, losses, shots faced, goals against, saves made, ice time and shutouts.
6. Shutout King
At the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, Roberto Luongo sits 18th in NHL history on the career shutouts list with 55. He is three behind Clint Benedict and John Ross Roach, who played most of their hockey in the 1920s. Luongo is second for active goalies, behind Martin Brodeur – Marty has thrown 116 career perfect games, more than any other goalie in history. In his career, Lou is also 23rd in TOI (time on the ice), 11th in saves made, 12th in shots faced, 25th in games played and 21st in games won. ** Update 2017, He is now the number 1 Active goalie and 11th All-Time with 73 shutouts.
7. First Goaltending Captain in Over 50 Years
When Roberto Luongo was named captain of the Vancouver Canucks on September 30, 2008, he became the first goaltender to wear the C since Bill Durnan in 1948. (Toe Blake broke his ankle on January 11, and Durnan took over for the remainder of the season. The goalie left his crease so often for confabs with referees and linesmen that opposing teams accused him of giving the Habs illegal timeouts – the league adopted “The Durnan Rule” prohibiting goaltenders from wearing a C on their jersey or performing on-ice duties that go along with the captaincy. Hence, Luongo had a C painted on his mask, but did not wear one on his jersey.)
The Canucks had regular season success while Luongo held the honour, but bowed out to the Chicago Blackhawks in dramatic fashion both years. He stepped down as captain before the 2010-11 season to concentrate on subtle changes to his playing style – his performance earned the team two franchise firsts: the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top team, and the Jennings Trophy for the team allowing the fewest goals against. Luongo was tapped with his third nomination for the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goaltender this season, and deservedly so. As mentioned above, if Tim Thomas hadn’t put together one of the best seasons in NHL history, Luongo just might have walked away with it.