April 21, 2012
In Schneider they trustCanucks behind young goalie all the way
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - Cory Schneider’s hometown of Marblehead, Mass., is known for its contributions to the Revolutionary War, for being the birthplace of the U.S. Navy and is a yachting hot spot.
“It’s not really a sports town,” Schneider said of the seaside city a stone’s throw north of Boston. “It’s a great place to grow up. It’s a big area for fishing and boating.”
The Vancouver Canucks hope Schneider can navigate them through the roughest of waters during the NHL playoffs by turning to him in goal with their Stanley Cup hopes
He obviously has the seafaring aspect of life down-pat. Schneider has shown the ability to steer through the waves that have come with the decision by the Canucks' coaching staff to give him the starting assignment in place of the long-time No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo. Especially since the team is on the verge of being eliminated from Stanley Cup contention.
The decision by Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault to put Schneider in goal for Wednesday’s do-or-die Game 4 in the team’s playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings has sent shockwaves through Vancouver.
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
Roberto Luongo, #1