Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault needs to worry about whether or not he’s lost his team.
It’s one thing to bench your starting goalie after a couple of back-to-back bad games but it’s another thing to have to rely on that starting goalie, the same starting goalie who led your team to the playoffs, to come in and relieve the back-up who replaced him due to injury.
It’s not like Roberto Luongo came into Game 6 because his replacement, Cory Schneider, wasn’t playing good. He was. Other than a couple of miscues handling the puck out of the net that resulted in two Chicago Blackhawks’ goals, Schneider was playing relatively well.
That is until he was helped off the ice near the end of the third period. Schneider had made 17 saves and gave up three goals to Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik on a penalty shot. But the story of the game and the series was, is, and always will be Luongo.
Luongo’s a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and had helped the Canucks take a commanding 3-0 lead over the Blackhawks. But his troubles against the Blackhawks once again became the focal point of the team heading into Game 6. Luongo gave up 10 goals on 40 shots in Games 4 and 5 and was surprisingly benched for Game 6.
While the Blackhawks tend to give Luongo fits he did have a 32 save shutout performance in Game 1 that was pretty outstanding. That’s the goalie the Canucks need if they hope to finish off the Blackhawks in what seemed a near impossible Game 7 a few days ago.
Normally a goalie switch doesn’t mean going back to the status quo but Vigneault might have no choice. He made his stance known that Schneider was now the guy to finish off the Canucks but with his injury during game 6, Vigneault may have to go back to the man he no longer has confidence in. Luongo did well in relief during Game 6, making 12 saves on 13 shots but he let in a weak goal on a bad rebound in overtime that let the Blackhawks tie the series at 3-3.
The simple fact is that the Blackhawks have Luongo’s number and have gotten into his head. There are certain teams players either dominate or get dominated by. And the Blackhawks just take it to Luongo and get into his head. If Vigneault didn’t think Luongo could lead his team to a series victory over the Blackhawks then he should have benched him earlier and given the reigns to Schneider. But he didn’t and he might have made a switch one game too late.
There’s no word on Schneider’s injury but if he’s healthy Vigneault has to go with him. He’s set the precedent now and there’s no turning back.
For the Canucks and their fans if they win Game 7 Tuesday night in Vancouver then no one will care who the starting goalie is. A victory is a victory and that’s all that matters. The only problem is that seems a lot tougher now that the defending Stanley Cup champions have found their groove again and who knows the turmoil going on behind the scenes in the Canucks’ locker room. Vigneault can only hope he’s still got his team listening to him.