BOSTON -- Roberto Luongo should start Game 7 where he found himself for the final 51 minutes at TD Garden Monday night.
On the bench as the world's most expensive doorman.
The Vancouver Canucks goalie set his team up for a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 6 -- first by his mouth and then his play. That mercifully lasted only 8:35, plenty of time for Luongo to allow three goals on eight shots.
The Bruins scored four goals in a 4:14 span during the first period, setting a Stanley Cup Final record for the fastest four goals by one team. Brad Marchand tallied at 5:31, followed by Milan Lucic at 6:06, Andrew Ference at 8:35 and Michael Ryder at 9:45. The previous Finals record was 5:29, set by the 1956 Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit in Game 4.
"I'm not going to make any excuses," said Luongo, whose duties included opening the gate so his teammates could come and go on the bench. "It just didn't happen for me obviously, in all three games [in Boston]. I'm just going to move on right now and we have one game at home to win a Stanley Cup. We've had some success there as a team so that's what we're looking forward to right now."
|Stanley Cup Finals: Game 6|
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said he's going to stick with his $10 million goaltender, hardly a surprise declaration.
"He knows he's going back in next game," Vigneault aid. "He's going to be real good."
Granted, Vigneault did say the same thing before he tossed rookie goalie Cory Schneider -- who allowed two goals on 32 shots in relief on Monday -- in net for Game 6 of the first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Vigneault later said he went with his "gut" after consulting with others in the organization.
"I mean, I got to believe in myself, right?" Luongo said. "That's a big component of bouncing back and playing a good game. So, we're going to put what happened tonight behind us as soon as possible and obviously get ready for what is going to be a dream as far as playing in Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final."
Maybe Luongo couldn't find a sea wall in Boston, a place where he walks to clear his mind before games in Vancouver. There's got to be some explanation why a finalist for the Vezina Trophy allowed 15 goals on 66 shots (.773 save percentage) in his three games here. That must be one magic place since he has two shutouts and a .979 save percentage at Rogers Arena.
Actually, Luongo made six saves on Monday night if you count the stool used by a TV cameramen came to rest on his shin after the game. Luongo was alright, although he understandably let out an expletive under his breath.
But what Luongo said leading up to Game 6 wasn't excusable, even if he said there was no malice behind it.
Luongo told reporters that he could have stopped the lone goal of Game 5, a shot off the boards that Max Lapierre directed in past Boston goalie Tim Thomas. Luongo followed that up by saying a day later he's been "pumping [Thomas'] tires ever since the series started," and hadn't heard many complimentary words back.
It's something that a veteran goalie who led Team Canada to gold in the Winter Games -- coincidently in Vancouver -- should have never have become ensnared in, especially since it further incited this rabid fanbase. Boston fans took every opportunity to chant his name even well after he was pulled.
Luongo got it right after Game 6.
"He played well," Luongo said. "He's been playing well all series and I've said that from the start."
Thomas, who allowed two goals on 38 shots in Game 6, all but sealed up the Conn Smythe Trophy, the award for playoff MVP. Now, it's just a matter whether he'll bring only that trophy back to Boston or the one the Bruins really want: the Stanley Cup. If not, Thomas will join Ron Hextall (1987) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2003) as the only players to win the Smythe on a losing squad.
"He's come in and decided just to focus on his play and nothing else," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's been outstanding for us and we all know the teams that normally win the Stanley Cup usually have unbelievable goaltending. We feel like we've got that."
Thomas' numbers may not be quite as impressive in Vancouver this series, but he still has a .946 save percentage there. Now, it will be up to his skaters who expect to see Luongo -- hopefully for them the Boston version -- in goal on Wednesday.
"I'm sure he'll be in the net," Bruins forward David Krejci said. "We know we can score against him, but we also know that he can stop every shot when he can see it. We have to put some bodies in front of him and go after it."