Sure, Schneider was very strong in a Game 3 loss — a 1-0 defeat which gave the Kings a 3-0 edge in the best-of-seven series — but it would have been a very easy decision to put Luongo back in goal.
Luongo started and lost the first two games, but turning to the veteran with so much more playoff experience for a crucial fourth game wouldn’t have made anybody think twice.
Instead, the Canucks gave Schneider another chance. He flourished with a 43-save outing in a 3-1 win and will try to backstop the team to another victory when the series resumes Sunday in Vancouver.
The secondary part of the story is what it means for the Canucks going forward. Luongo still has 10 more seasons on a 12-year, $64 million contract, but the common thinking is the club will now try to trade the 33-year-old netminder.
Schneider, 26, is a pending restricted free agent, but appears more than capable of being Vancouver's No. 1 goalie.
He’s also quite adept at defending his teammates.
Ask Schneider about pretty much anything, and you’ll receive a thoughtful and articulate response. Bring up the criticism surrounding Luongo’s play — which was solid in the first two games of the series — and Schneider goes on the offensive in a hurry.
“You can handle criticism by yourself, but when people criticize your friends and teammates it’s never easy to sit back and just take it,” Schneider said. “You know how hard they work and how hard they battle and want to win. Everyone feels it’s their right to take shots at somebody, so it’s something you get defensive about and we’re here to stand up for each other.
“You don’t let teammates drift in the wind. You have to have their back.”
That attitude is likely a big reason Luongo has handled the situation so well, too.
Sure, the veteran netminder is disappointed and knows full well the vultures are circling — 75% of respondents to a Sun Media poll said they believe Luongo will be dealt in the off-season — but Luongo is adamantly backing his teammate.
“Cory has worked extremely hard since he’s been up. He deserves what he’s getting,” Luongo said. “He’s going to be a top-notch goalie in this league for a long time. I’m happy for him and hopefully he’ll get the job done.”
Schneider has done everything he could to this point, so that’s a solid assertion.
He twice reached NCAA championship game at Boston College. He helped the AHL’s Manitoba Moose reach the Calder Cup final in 2009.
This past season, he was outstanding in posting a 20-8-1 record with three shutouts to go with a 1.96 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
It’s not just what he’s done, it’s the manner in which he does it.
Schneider has a cool-as-a-cucumber way of playing and exudes a quiet confidence under pressure.
“Pressure’s a little bit self-manifesting. It’s what you make of it,” said the netminder. “If you let opinions and other people get to you and get into your head, it’s going to create pressure. You just go out there, enjoy the moment, play for your teammates, yourself, family and friends, it’s fun. I try not to put too much pressure on myself.
“You can’t play at this level if you don’t have belief in yourself. That’s first and foremost, and if your teammates believe in you as well, it adds to it.”
His teammates certainly have belief.
“The last two years, he’s been amazing,” left winger Daniel Sedin said. “We have as much trust in him as we do in Lou.”
The Canucks had better trust Schneider, because if he trips up, their season, which had so much promise for the first championship in the franchise’s history, will come to a close.
To credit the Canucks, they prepared for the situation by ensuring Schneider saw plenty of big-game action this season, such as the team's January win in Boston.
“It’s really helped,” he said. “It’s helped me deal with pressure situations, deal with nerves and expectations and what I expect out of myself.”
SCHNEIDER VS. LUONGO
Cory Schneider, #35
Weight: 195 lbs.
Birthplace: Marblehead, Mass.
Acquired: Drafted 26th overall by Vancouver in 2004
2011-2012 Salary: $900K in final year of two-year contract (Pending RFA)
Notable hardware: Team USA at World Junior Tournaments in 2005 and 2006, AHL Goaltender of the Year (2009), William Jennings Trophy (2011)
Regular season stats: 38-17-4, 2.24 GAA, .928 SV%, 4 SO (This season: 20-8-1, 1.96 GAA, .937 SV%, 3 SO)
Playoff stats: 1-1, 1.92 GAA, .938 SV % (This year: 1-1, 1.02 GAA, .969 SV%)
Biggest NHL moment: Making 43 saves in a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the 2012 Western quarterfinal.
Best attributes: His positioning and calmness in net.
Biggest knock: His puck handling.
Weirdest reason to leave game: During a crucial Game 6 against Chicago in 2011, Schneider suffered cramps trying to make a save on a penalty shot. With the game tied 3-3, Roberto Luongo replaced him, but the Canucks lost 4-3 in overtime.
Roberto Luongo, #1
Weight: 217 lbs.
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec
Acquired: Traded, along with Lucas Krajicek and a sixth round pick, in 2006 from Florida Panthers to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld. Drafted 4th overall by New York Islanders in 1997
2011-2012 Salary: $6.176 million in second year of 12-year contract (Cap hit: $5.33 million)
Notable hardware: QMJHL championship with Val d’Or (1998) and Acadie-Bathurst (1999), World Junior Championships silver medal (1999), World Championships gold medal (2003, 2004), World Cup gold medal (2004), NHL Second All-Star Team (2003, 2007), Olympic gold medal (2010), William Jennings Trophy (2011)
Regular season stats: 339-283-33-50, 2.52 GAA, .919 SV %, 60 SO (This year: 31-14-8, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%, 5 SO)
Playoffs stats: 32-29, 2.53 GAA, .916 SV%, 5 SO (This year: 0-2, 3.59 GAA, .891 SV%)
Biggest NHL moment: His erratic performances in the 2011 Stanley Cup final saw him pulled twice, but he also posted two big shutouts — 36 saves in Game 1 and 31 saves in Game 5.
Best attributes: His size and competitiveness.
Biggest knock: His inconsistency.
Weirdest reason to leave game: In 2007, facing elimination in Game 5 of the second round against the Anaheim Ducks, Luongo missed the first three minutes of overtime with an emergency bathroom break. Despite tense moments with backup Dany Sabourin in net, Luongo returned, only to eventually allow the series-winning goal in the extra frame.