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Stung Canucks decide to stick with leaky Luongo

by | CBSSports.com
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BOSTON -- Roberto Luongo, along with his brother, literally wrote the book -- actually a couple of them -- on goaltending

The titles for each begin with The 10 Quickest Ways, which seems all so appropriate these days as the Vancouver Canucks goalie has lost the confidence of an entire city in the span of the past two games of the Stanley Cup Finals. Many of those who piled into Rogers Arena to watch Wednesday's Game 4 on the video boards cheered as Luongo was pulled late in the 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

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"Right now, we are obviously not getting the breaks," Luongo said. "It's just a matter of staying focused. ... We would have liked to win one game here, but we worked hard all year to get home-ice advantage so this is where it's going to serve its purpose. We want to make sure we get playing the way we did in the first two home games and establish a good tempo and take it to them."

Luongo allowed 12 goals on 58 shots in Games 3 and 4 after he stopped 63 of 65 shots as Vancouver opened the Finals with consecutive wins. Not all the goals should be laid at the crease of Luongo -- there was at least one deflection off his own player in Game 4 and his defense did him few favors -- but his rep as a big-game goalie is again in question.

He has been yanked in three games this postseason and even started a first-round game on the bench in favor of rookie Cory Schneider. Meanwhile, Boston goalie Tim Thomas -- who has yet to sit a second on the bench minus the times he has been pulled for an extra attacker -- has quieted whatever critics he had knocking his comparably unorthodox style with his third playoff shutout.

"Everybody has to do a better job," Canucks forward Maxim Lapierre said. "Lou was there for us all series. He's doing a good job for us. We can't look at those two games. We have to find a positive."

Well, Schneider did stop all nine shots he faced in Game 4. (When you get outscored 12-1 in your first two road games of the Finals, positives are hard to come.) While Canucks coach Alain Vigneault did sit Luongo in the first round as the Canucks let a 3-0 series lead to the Blackhawks slip away, he told reporters on Thursday that he’s sticking with Luongo --- at least for the start of Game 5.

"I just felt at that time with Chicago there was a special situation,” Vigneault said. "The fact that we had lost twice to them before in the playoffs and felt that we needed to change momentum a little bit. My gut at that time told me that putting Schneids in was the thing to do. There is one thing, Roberto is the guy, he's my guy and he's playing. It's that simple."

Sorry disgruntled Canucks fans.

"We're the last show in town right now," Canucks forward Manny Malhotra said. "The whole hockey world is watching. There are going to be so many opinions. The harshest criticism and the only one that matters are going to come from this room. They are going say what they want about us."

Luongo didn't fare well in his lone start after he was pulled. He allowed four goals on 12 shots and lasted all of 21 minutes in a Game 5 loss to 'Hawks. (He didn't start Game 6, but did come into the game in relief after Schneider was forced out with cramps.) In a position where what's happening between one's ears greatly affects what takes place between the pipes, where is Luongo's mojo at this point?

Henrik Sedin, for one, isn't concerned.

"He can [recover]," the Canucks captain said. "He's been so good for us. Thomas has been strong through the playoffs, too. If you're a top goalie like they are, you're going to bounce back. We have a lot of trust in Lou. He's showed up for us every game. He's going to show up next game as well."

Maybe this can all be explained away as some bad luck on the road (visiting teams are 2-15 in the Finals since 2009). The pucks that have bounded off Luongo's lanky 6-foot-3, pad-clad frame and into the net the past six periods could suddenly deflect harmlessly away once again.

By the mere fact that the Canucks' top-ranked blue line has shrunk due to injury (Dan Hamhuis) and suspension (Aaron Rome), Luongo will have to get better. Quick.

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