Roberto Luongo gave up 12 goals in the Vancouver Canucks net in Games 3 and 4, but he'll be back there for Game 5. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER – To his credit, Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault came to the defense of his embattled goaltender and players and expressed total confidence they will be able to bounce back from two terrible outings in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final Friday night.
When asked whether Luongo would start Game 5 after allowing 12 goals on 55 shots for a putrid .782 save percentage in Games 3 and 4, Vigneault said, “You can bet on that, yeah,” then expressed his belief that Luongo would bounce back with a solid effort.
“Roberto is the guy,” Vigneault said. “He’s my guy and he’s playing. It’s that simple.”
Good on Vigneault for setting the record straight immediately and not creating a controversy where none should exist. Coaches are often so secretive during the playoffs that it is a detriment to their team and Vigneault would have done a lot more damage by allowing the speculation over Luongo to continue to have legs. Last year when Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was asked about the status of Michael Leighton after a shaky effort in Game 1, he was less than committal. It caused a firestorm of speculation, so much so that the Flyers were forced to issue a statement about an hour later that confirmed Leighton would get the start.
Vigneault was just as supportive of the players in front of Luongo, some of whom have been non-existent, others who have been conspicuous only by their terrible play in Games 3 and 4. In those games the biggest difference was that the best players on the Bruins badly outplayed the top players on the Canucks.
“You guys should know, especially the people from Vancouver should know, the strong core group and the strong leadership we have in that dressing room,” Vigneault said. “The accountability that we have in that dressing room. Guys aren’t happy with how they’ve played. They’re aware of it. They’re going to come ready (Friday) and they’re going to live in the moment and seize this opportunity.
“This is the hardest thing professionally any one of us has ever done,” Vigneault continued. “It’s a tough trophy to win.”
For his part Luongo took ownership over his own struggles in Games 3 and 4, struggles that were magnified by the fact that his counterpart at the other end has been an enormous factor in Boston’s success. When the question was posed to the panel whether or not the Canucks are suffering a crisis of confidence after their efforts in Games 3 and 4, Luongo quickly said “I’ll answer that,” and went on to point out that, even though it might not feel like it, the series is still tied.
“Last time I checked, it’s 2-2 in the series,” Luongo said. “So I don’t see why we should be depressed. We’re in a two-out-of-three Stanley Cup final. So if I was told that before the start of the year, I mean, where do I sign? That’s the bottom line for us.”
Another bottom line is that the Canucks seem to have caught the power play disease that was running through Boston prior to the series. The Canucks power play is 1-for-22 going into Game 5 and that sole goal came from its second unit. When reminded that he said prior to Game 4 that the power play seemed to be finding its way, Vigneault said, “I lied,” a comment that seemed to defuse the tension of the situation.
“I’ve got a lot of trust and faith in these guys,” Vigneault said. “Before this series our power play was 28 percent. I think it was one of the best in the playoffs (and) the best in the regular season. These guys have done it all year for us and they’re going to do it again.”
The defensive juggernaut that was the Canucks also sprung a leak in Games 3 and 4, something everyone involved vowed will change.
It will have to because the reality is it can’t get much worse.
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