After shutting out the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 two nights ago the Vancouver Canucks and head coach Alain Vigneault have decided to give goalie Roberto Luongo another start against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. It will be the third consecutive start for Luongo and seems to have people worked up.
At first glance, starting a veteran goalie who is coming off a shut-out against your rivals doesn’t seem that abnormal.
The problem is that we all thought this was supposed to be the year Cory Schneider took over the Canucks number one goalie position. So why is Luongo getting a third consecutive start?
This move has people crying ‘Controversy!’
But is this move really that controversial? Is there really a goalie controversy in Vancouver? The answer is no, there is not.
For starters, Vigneault has said from day one of training camp that he looked at the situation as having two number one goalies, and that’s how he’s deployed them so far. He has played the hot hand. When Schneider played brilliantly in getting a shut-out against the Anaheim Ducks last week, he started the next night and the team struggled against San Jose.
Luongo has had two excellent games in a row, giving up two goals to Los Angeles and blanking Colorado, and now, with the red hot Blackhawks coming in, he is getting the call. There is nothing controversial with playing the hot hand.
So far Luongo has put up better numbers than Schneider has. He has played four games and has been stingy to a tune of 1.61 goals against and a .938 save percentage. If you’re a coach and have committed to having two number one’s then why wouldn’t you play those numbers?
For his part Schneider has put up lesser numbers, a 3.13 goals against and a .897 save percentage. Clearly Schneider has not found his feet yet after a short training camp due to the NHL lockout. Instead of it being a controversy it’s a luxury to have Luongo to come in and play well while Schneider gets his bearing this year.
Most goalie controversies are fan and media created in the first place, as is this one. The players on the Canucks roster seem to trust both goalies equally and don’t seem to play better for either guy. Both Luongo and Schneider have said the right things, have acted professionally and show no signs of grousing or complaining.
In fact, they seem to be perfectly fine with the situation, and are using it for motivation.
So what’s the big deal? Where’s the controversy?
There is none.
Instead what you have is a team that features two top flight goaltenders who can get you a win any night. Most teams in the NHL would love to have that kind of depth in net. While Luongo may still get traded at some point, why not use him while you still have him? Get valuable wins out of him before he’s sent off to Toronto, Florida or parts unknown? Besides, when a guy is making saves with the knob of his stick you play him as much as you can:
Vancouver has bigger problems to be worrying about anyway. Their defense has been inconsistent, which has made life more difficult for both Schneider and Luongo, and they are struggling to get scoring from anyone not named Zack Kassian. Those problems are more urgent and troublesome than who is in net. So Canucks fans should take a deep breath and enjoy watching Luongo battle his good friends in Chicago. Who knows, the next time it will probably be Schneider’s turn.
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.