April 15, 2012
Canucks make change in net
By Randy Sportak, QMI Agency
EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. - Alain Vigneault really had no other choice.
The Vancouver Canucks head coach certainly has so few options to shake up his team after dropping the first two games in the best-of-seven series with the Los Angeles Kings that he had to play backup goalie Cory Schneider in place of Roberto Luongo.
Vigneault admitted as much leading up to Sunday's crucial Game 3 in Southern California.
"It's one of the cards we have," explained Vigneault, noting the switch wasn't a reflection of Luongo's play in the first two clashes, both 4-2 Kings victories.
"We feel it's time to maybe try and change the momentum a little bit."
Having lost the first two games at home to start the series, Vigneault was in dire need of something to kickstart his team.
Without Daniel Sedin -- still out with a concussion -- to help get the moribund offence going, especially the power play, the only bullet in the chamber for Vigneault was swapping netminders.
Even Kings defenceman Drew Doughty could see the point of making a switch.
"Sometimes I think it's a good thing for a team to do something like that just to mix it up. It gives the players a reason to put the light on in their head and say, 'We've got to pick it up,' " Doughty said after his team's morning skate. "I think Luongo's played pretty good this year, made a lot of saves at key times. I don't think it's caused by his play, just a boost."
Luongo surrendered seven goals in the first two games, but certainly can't be blamed for his club's struggles. His teammates were so busy finding different ways to shoot themselves in the feet, it overshadowed how well he performed in the opener.
Granted, he failed to come up with a game-changing save in the second game, but he hardly deserves to be faulted.
However, when you have a No. 2 goalie like Schneider, who posted an outstanding 1.96 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 33 regular-season games, you have to give him a shot when staring at such a deficit.
"I feel I've learned a lot this year and even from last year's experience," said Schneider, the 26-year-old from Marblehead, Mass. "I feel much better and in a better mind frame and what I expect of myself."
The 2004 first-round draft choice collected a 20-8-1 record in the regular season, which included consecutive shutouts against Colorado and Phoenix in November and a big victory at Boston in early January.
"We felt we could put Cory in any situation. He's grown from last year to this year. He's a great young goaltender," Vigneault said. "He's a goaltender that's played real well for us in key moments the last couple of years."
Schneider started one playoff game last spring, Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and surrendered three goals -- one on a penalty shot -- before cramps forced him to leave the game early in the third period.
It will be interesting to see how things play out for a Canucks team which went into the playoffs with sky-high expectations.
Schneider, who many in the hockey world believe is ready to be a No. 1 goalie, is a pending restricted free agent.
Luongo is in the second year of a 12-year, $64 million contract which runs through the 2021-22 season, but is in danger of being supplanted through the playoffs.
Vigneault said Luongo took the news professionally.
"Roberto's been an ultimate team guy all year long and that hasn't changed," he said.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak