In Vancouver, the Canucks' faithful expect the best. Much like the New York Yankees in baseball, or anybody in college football's SEC, the affectionately named Canuckleheads want their team to win every single game. Having said that, they want the best, and last night Roberto Luongo wasn't the best goalie.
That honor was earned by his counterpart, Jonathan Quick, who turned aside 24 of 26 shots en route to a surprising 4-2 victory over the Canucks. Quick would allow an Alex Burrows goal on only the second shot of the game-- thanks to a very timely, villainous embellishment by Ryan Kesler -- before shutting down the 'Nucks and stopping 23 of the next 24 offerings. More importantly, he never allowed the Canucks to take back the lead following that early goal.
In the raucous back and forth, the Kings would strike back with two goals on Luongo before Alexander Edler knotted the game at two later in the second period. However, it was the third period, game winning goal by pancake enthusiast Dustin Penner that eventually did the team in, and has now created somewhat of a Cinderella story in Tinsel Town. But was Luongo to blame for a good goal in a series-opening game?
His save percentage actually nearly mirrored that of Quick's, posting a .921 average opposed to the marginally better .923. Considering Luongo faced 35 shots opposed to 24, he did his best in keeping the game close. He did that best with what was given to him.
Furthermore, the Canucks' offense didn't do him any favors.
After scoring the go-ahead goal early in the first period, the unlikable Canucks bunch managed to serve five consecutive penalties. The second penalty of the five led to the game-tying goal; the Kings' second goal came after all five infractions concluded but still with the man advantage following a Byron Bitz five minute major for boarding. Instead of tightening up defensively, and staying out of the box, the Canucks dug a deeper hole and eventually lost the game due to their lack of discipline.
Lack of discipline, not poor goaltending is the reasoning for last night's loss. The penalty killers were overextended which led to everyone from Kesler and Burrows to Christopher Higgins and Jannik Hansen putting an emphasis on defense. More importantly, it led to their most dangerous weapon, Henrik Sedin, seeing only 13 minutes of even-strength ice time.
To win this series, the Canucks need to play a much better, more well-rounded game. They need to stay out of the box, they need to tighten up on the back end and provide timely scoring to alleviate pressure from those aforementioned units. None of those issues have anything to do with Roberto Luongo, no matter how easy of a target he may be.
Luongo's play, if anything, solidified his standing as this team's starting goalie. And while Cory Schneider remains the younger, cheaper and sexier option to play should Luongo falter, there is no reason to panic this early. In order to compete with an imminent Vezina Trophy finalist like Jonathan Quick, the Canucks need to fight fire with fire and keep their best, Luongo, between the pipes.
So yes, way too early to worry about Luongo, Canucks Army.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.