Luongo a changed goalie

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo takes part in practice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., May...

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo takes part in practice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., May 20, 2011. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

VANCOUVER - You would think winning an Olympic gold medal would have finally muzzled the critics.

You would think that, whether he was shaky or not, the fact that Roberto Luongo had been the goalie for Canada at the magnificent 2010 Winter Games here in Vancouver 15 months ago finally would have stopped all those Louie-bashers from asking that same, tired question.

"What's Roberto Luongo ever won?"

He's been hearing it for years. Even today, gold medal or no gold medal.

"That still hasn't changed," a chuckling Luongo told QMI Agency Monday afternoon.

Maybe not.

But what has changed is Roberto Luongo himself.

In years past, the fact that Olympic gold was not enough to shut up his naysayers would have eaten at him. Even if he wasn't on top of his game for Team Canada, it was good enough.

Not in the minds of some observers, however.

No matter. This is a different Roberto Luongo, a guy who no longer seems to take every barb to heart.

And you can point to a moment last month as a key in this change of attitude, one that brought clarity to the Vancouver Canucks goaltender.

Back in late April, hours before Game 7 of the first-round series between the Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks, Luongo, wearing a hoody and headphones, walked along the sea wall that separates Vancouver from the Pacific. With the hoody pulled up, passers-by had no clue it was him.

This was his way, he admits now, "of clearing my head, of putting things into perspective."

Asked what was playing on his headphones at the time, Luongo replied: "Well, it wasn't Celine Dion."

What it was, was a motivational tape, something he needed at that point.

In the previous contest, Luongo had been benched in favour of backup Cory Schneider. Only after Schneider was hurt in the third period was Luongo brought into the game, which was won by Chicago in overtime.

Now, here it was, just hours before Game 7, and Luongo was alone with his thoughts as he strolled along the waterfront.

"Things had gone up and down for me," he admitted. "But I told myself, "How bad can it be? You are in the Stanley Cup playoffs. You are in the NHL.

"I've only done a (walk) like that on a couple of occasions but it helped put me in the right frame of mind."

Several hours later, Luongo held the Hawks off the scoresheet for most of the game. When Jonathan Toews tied it 1-1 with less than two minutes remaining, Luongo did not second guess himself, even though many inside the packed arena were doing exactly that.

Alex Burrows would go on to score the overtime winner, a huge goal that sent the Canucks on a 9-3 run and a berth in the final against the Boston Bruins -- all with Luongo in goal.

"You learn a lot along the way," Luongo said. "I think I've learned more about myself during these playoffs than (I ever have) as far as growing, maturing and, more than anything else, handling things mentally.

"I can't control (what people say). I just want to win a Cup for myself and my teammates. That's what I play hockey for. As long as I have the confidence of my friends and my family, that's all I need."

Yes, the Olympics did build up his confidence. But there have been other factors, too.

"I use a lot of things that have helped me ... like the (Olympics), like Game 7 against the Blackhawks, like overtimes. It's a different animal, the playoffs. It's best out of seven, it's a grind, you see the same team every night.

"There are some similarities with the Olympics, but for the most part it's much different."

Just like Roberto Luongo.

For the better, too.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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