|Backup goalie Cory Schneider has led Vancouver to a four-game win streak and two shutouts. (Getty Images)|
Another season, another slow start for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. It's a story we've seen many times in the past, and as is usually the case, he's eventually going to bust out of it and play like the No. 1 goaltender he is. In the meantime, the Canucks have handed the keys over to his backup, Cory Schneider, who has started each of the past five games and will again be in the crease Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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The 25-year-old goaltender has responded by helping lead the suddenly streaking Canucks on a four-game winning streak, recording a pair of shutouts in the process, to help the team climb in the Western Conference standings, as well as this week's Power Rankings. And with games against three of the bottom-five teams in the West this week, the Canucks have an opportunity to make up even more ground after a sluggish start out of the gate, over the first month-and-a-half of the season. With a contract that still has 10 years and over $50 million still remaining on it, it's unlikely that Luongo is going anywhere, nor is he in any danger of losing his starting job for the long-haul. Canucks coach Alain Vignault said on Monday that Luongo is still his team's No. 1 goaltender, but it's certainly a nice fallback for the Canucks to have a youngster like Schneider waiting in the wings that is capable of filling in and playing at a high level when needed. He's always been regarded as one of the top goaltending prospects in the league, and in his first full season as Luongo's backup last year, he played extremely well, posting a .929 save percentage in his 25 regular season appearances. He's continued that strong play this season.
Luongo, if for no other reason than his gigantic contract, (which probably isn't that attractive to many other teams around the league), is likely cemented in as Vancouver's starting goaltender for the foreseeable future. But in the short-term, Schneider is showing other teams around the NHL what he's capable of when given the opportunity. He also gives the Canucks’ front office what could be a rather large trade chip, should they decide to eventually go in that direction.