With little more than half the first period gone, Vancouver Canucks fans had already strung a rope around the nearest Georgia Street light standard waiting to lynch Roberto Luongo.
But as an ex-goalie, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of empathy for the beleaguered tender.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, they just go in and at other times they don’t.
Luongo has been brilliant at home, allowing three goals in three games, but at the Boston T.D. Garden he becomes a human sieve. Not that he has received much help, being outscored17-3 in Beantown.
But no matter how poorly he plays in Boston, you have to give him some credit before you write his eulogy.
If not for his excellent play throughout the season, the Canucks might not enjoy this year’s playoffs’ crucial home-ice advantage.
Then again, winning the regular season doesn’t count for much if you fail in the playoffs and since arriving, Luongo has had to postpone that trip to Disneyland every year.
So the question is, how can Bobby Lou rebound after such a confidence-crushing outing and respond in the biggest, most intensely scrutinized game of his life?
For the answer, I asked two of Trail’s most prestigious puck stoppers, ’61 Smoke Eater Seth Martin and tending partner on the ‘63 Trail Smoke Eaters and Allan Cup champions, Reno Zanier.
“You win by one or lose by one, you lose by eight or win by eight; as a goaltender, you just have to put it behind you, the game’s over and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Martin. “You take a day off and get back in the right frame of mind for the seventh game.”
Luongo and Bruins goalie Tim Thomas play widely contrasting styles, with Thomas challenging shooters and throwing himself in front of pucks with Hasek-like abandon. Luongo is more reserved and technical, employing the floating-butterfly style of goaltending favoured by NHL tenders.
“Most goaltenders play with reflexes and from the position of all the goaltenders, except maybe one or two, every shot is to cover the low end of the net, and so the pucks go over their shoulders or through them somehow,” said Martin. “It’s a strange situation where everyone plays the same way now.”
When the puck wasn’t going in over Luongo’s shoulder, it was squeaking through his pads, but with the quality of today’s shooters, goalies have to play the odds, says Zanier.
“The goalies have to cover so much ground, if it’s a clear shot you’re probably not going to stop it. I tell you, I’d hate to be a goalie now, the only thing they got going for them is the size of the equipment,” he added.
The games in GM Place have been goaltending gems on both sides of the ice but as for scoring on Thomas, “Go high or they’ll never beat him,” advises Zanier.
“I think Luongo will be okay but you never know. Half of those shots don’t get through some games, but some games they do and they go in, so what are you going to do?”
As far as Martin is concerned, since his Habs made an early exit, he’d like to see the Canucks take it all but it has been a strange playoff.
“In all the times I’ve watched the Stanley Cup, and that’s a good number of years, this is probably the most unpredictable in Stanley Cup history.”
They also agree on sticking with the $10 million dollar man, but if he gives up an early goal, get Schneider in there.
“That last game is going to be a tough one because their goalie is hot,” said Martin. “The key seems to be that if you score the first goal, you might win the game”
If Vancouver wins tonight, all will be forgotten and forgiven and Luongo will ride off into the sunset in a cherry-red convertible with Cup in tow.
But if they lose, get ready for a long, cup-half-full kind of summer and perhaps a new number one goalie between the pipes in October.