Roberto Luongo plays goalie for the Vancouver Canucks. These are his numbers in the Stanley Cup finals, which remain ongoing largely because of him:
Games 1, 2 and 5: Faces 97 Boston shots, stops 95 of them, wins two games 1-0 and the third 3-2 in overtime.
Games 3,4 and 6: Faces 64 Boston shots, fails to stop 15 of them, loses all three games (one 8-0) and gets pulled twice.
To recap: For the three games in Vancouver, Luongo stood, as they say approvingly in hockey, on his head; for the three games in Boston, he shoulda stood in bed.
Hockey can be an odd game, but this is beyond odd. A world-class goalie — he was Canada’s man between the pipes when it won Olympic gold last year — has been world-class on his sport’s biggest stage only half the time. But it’s not as if Canucks fans weren’t expecting it. Writing in Sports Illustrated last month, Brian Cazeneuve sketched the can’t-bear-to-look feeling the locals had toward their goalie in a story entitled, “The Good, the Bad and Roberto Luongo.”
Indeed, Cazeneuve’s opening was provided by a female customs officer at Vancouver’s airport. She asked what the writer thought of Luongo. Cazeneuve said, “He’s playing well.”
She said, “Come on, he’s a choker, right?”
Luongo was benched in Game 4 of the finals. He worked a shutout in Game 5 to put Vancouver on the cusp of its first Cup, which would also mark the first for a Canadian team since 1993. He lasted minutes in what could have been the clincher: Eight shots, three goals, Game 7 upcoming Wednesday.
Genteel Bostonians found this hilarious, and not just because their team was winning. Luongo had also offered a critique of the one goal surrendered in Game 5 by the Bruins’ Tim Thomas, who has been standing on his head the past two months. “It’s an easy save for me,” Luongo averred, prompting an impressive bit of tongue-biting from Thomas himself.
Already this month we’ve witnessed — Clevelanders will appreciate the usage of the word — the world’s most talented basketball turning into Marvin Williams. Now we’re being treated to a psychodrama of the highest order: A great goalie who can’t decide if he’s Gump Worsley or Bill Buckner. Who says sports aren’t entertaining?
By Mark Bradley