Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Raycroft to start in place of Luongo
Roberto Luongo struggles after the Olympics continue. Luongo looked very pedestrian in a 3-2 loss to the lowly Edmonton Oilers last night, despite only facing 22 shots. It wasn’t so much the number of goals he let in, but when and how.
Oilers’ D Tom Gilbert scored on a weak shot from the corner where Luongo simply should have been against the post. That goal put the Canucks down 1-0 early in the first, and was quickly followed by an equally weak short-side shot from Robert Nilsson to make it 2-0 before the Canucks really found their legs. As the Canucks notched up their play and scored a goal to narrow the gap to 2-1, Luongo struggled again, as a shot from Andrew Cogliano from a few feet inside the blueline hit a Canuck stick shortly after follow through and dribbled through Luongo. While goals that are tipped or deflected are normally forgiveable for a goaltender, this one was harder to stomach as the re-direction happened so far away, and the shot was hardly a howitzer.
Luongo remained in the net, as he did against Colorado a couple of weeks ago when they allowed 3 first period goals. Those two poor starts do not include the "I got to find the consistency in my game that I had before," Luongo said. "You have a bad game every 12 games, now it seems every two or three games I'm not at my best. I just got to find that consistency level back and make sure game in and game out I have that swagger that I typically have."
That is definitely true, and while Canucks fans perhaps should not be ringing alarm bells yet, Luongo will need to be at his best when the playoffs roll around. Luongo’s struggles to start seasons have been documented and are now almost expected. On the other hand, the Canucks goaltender is usually unstoppable in November and heading into the playoffs. The past few years Luongo has finished the season strong, and has been out-of-this-world in the first round, whether it be against Dallas or St. Louis. Luongo was also stellar in the second round against Anaheim in 2007, but struggled against Chicago last season.
For now though, the focus remains on the Anaheim Ducks, who visit GM Place tonight. The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Canucks’ head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters this was a planned Raycroft start.
“We planned that a long time ago and we just decided to stick with the plan,” Vigneault explained. “Louie was the guy we wanted to play in Edmonton, the first game of a back-to-back, and it's as simple as that.”
Elliott Pap reports that when asked about his level of concern with Luongo's play, Vigneault stickhandled through that one like Kyle Wellwood did in the Edmonton zone Tuesday night. Luongo allowed three goals on the first 10 shots he faced against the Oilers, none of them screened and all of them stoppable.
“If I'm going to be honest, if I was concerned, I wouldn't tell you,” Vigneault replied. “If we were concerned as an organization, to be honest, we wouldn't tell you. But we're not concerned. Yes, he is having some consistency issues but you've got an athlete there who takes full responsibility for his performance. You've got an athlete who knows when he's not on top of his game, or it's not where he wants it to be, and he does everything within his power to get it where it needs to be. As a coach, that's all you can ask from a player and an athlete.”