February 1, 2013
Canucks goalie controversy growsRoberto Luongo given another start on Friday
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - Cory Schneider was never told by Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault he wasn't starting Friday. Instead, the goaltender just figured it out when no one said anything to him prior to Thursday’s practice.
But while the team continues to roll with Roberto Luongo — who has allowed two goals on a combined 52 shots with one shutout in the last two games — when the Chicago Blackhawks head into town, the supposed No. 1 Canucks starter did his best to play down the growing controversy in the Vancouver crease.
“It’s just some adversity,” Schneider said. “I don't cry myself to sleep at night. I don't feel bad for myself. I just have to work hard and be better.
“There’s no point in being upset about it, I just have to channel all that into motivation.”
It clearly didn’t help that the 26-year-old was continually bombarded with questions about his reaction to sitting yet another game despite having entered the season expected to be the main man in the Canucks’ net.
“It's more fodder for the public and you guys,” he added. “We’re passed the point of disappointment and anger and frustration. You just have to be a professional about it and handle it the right way and improve your game. I don’t feel bad for myself. I don’t think anyone else does. If I want to play then I’ll be better. Simple as that.”
Vigneault refused to say why he decided to go with Luongo against the league-best 'Hawks — cheekily flipping a coin during his post-practice presser while sticking to his “two-great-goaltenders” script.
From Schneider’s perspective, however, he feels Vigneault “can't go wrong with either one of us.”
“We both want to play,” he said of Luongo. “There's only one net so only one of us can play. We’ve seen what he can do when he gets on a roll so I understand why it's easy to keep him in the net.”
So far this season, Schneider has a 2-2 record with a .897 save percentage, 3.13-goals-against average and one shutout.
The entire situation, which will now see Luongo start three straight games after picking up his first victory against a slumping Colorado Avalanche team Wednesday, remains up in the air despite on-going trade speculations. While a deal could be made by general manager Mike Gillis at any moment, Luongo doesn’t think about possibly playing his last game as a Canuck with every passing game.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” said Luongo, who has a .938 save percentage and 1.61 GAA this season. “I’m just enjoying the moment right now and having fun and being around the guys and playing some hockey, what more can you ask for?”
The 33-year-old Montreal native admitted no one could have foreseen this scenario — even if personally he’s in a “happy place” — but added he’s not worried as to how Schneider is handling it.
“We talk. He’s fine,” Luongo said. “He’s so strong mentally. He’ll be back there sooner rather than later. He’s a very, very capable goalie, one of the best in the league in my opinion, and we just want to both do well for the team.”
Last season in two appearances against the Blackhawks, Luongo won one and lost another in overtime, both games in the Windy City. His all-time regular season stats against the heated rivals — a team that has eliminated the Canucks twice in recent playoff history — are actually quite positive with a 14-9-1-2 record, a 2.23 GAA and four shutouts.
On Friday, however, he’ll be facing one of the hotter teams in the league, although the Blackhawks finally lost their first game of the season in a shootout Wednesday.
“It's always fun games when we play them,” Luongo said. “Nothing better than a game against the Blackhawks to get a little playoff intensity there.
“Those guys have been one of the top teams in the league so far and it’s a good measuring stick for us.”