If the marriage is anything like the honeymoon, it’s going to be an ugly divorce.
The union between the Vancouver Canucks, recently acquired Mats Sundin and recently healthy Roberto Luongo hasn’t exactly been domestic bliss, but happier days are ahead. They have to be; it can’t get any worse, can it?
The Canucks beat Edmonton 4-2 in Sundin’s debut on Jan. 7, but have since lost six consecutive games (0-4-2) to limp into the all-star break. Luongo has played the last three games after coming back from a groin strain that sidelined him for nearly two months.
Vancouver, of course, lost all three contests (0-1-2), including a 6-5 shootout loss to visiting Columbus last Sunday. Not good.
So, no, it’s not all unfolding as Canucks GM Mike Gillis envisioned when he finally hooked Sundin in December and landed him on the west coast. The neophyte GM has made few moves since arriving in Vancouver in the summer; Sundin, by far, is the most significant addition. But with two goals, three points and a minus-3 rating through seven games — and the fact he’s been in the penalty box for three game-winning goals against — the sublime Swede hasn’t had the anticipated early impact.
Luongo, meanwhile, surrendered an un-Luongo-like 11 goals in his first three games back, with post-injury stats that include an unflattering 3.51 goals-against average and an .876 save percentage.
But let’s face it: Sundin and Luongo are going to get better, a lot better, and soon. It’s inevitable.
Sundin was a notoriously slow starter in Toronto; now he’s a soon-to-be 38-year-old trying to catch up after missing training camp and the first half of the season. Naturally, he’s going to need (at least) a few weeks to a month before he really starts rolling.
Not to mention, he’s on a new team in a new city after 13 seasons as a Maple Leaf. He used to rule Leafs Nation as Toronto’s longtime captain and best player; now, he’s just trying to fit in and, Mats being Mats, he’s probably being extra careful not to rock the boat.
Likewise with Luongo — it’s merely a matter of time. After sitting for 25 games, even the NHL’s best goaltender is going to have a little rust.
The good news is, Luongo looked sharp in his most recent outing, a 2-1 overtime loss at San Jose on Tuesday. That is, at least for the first 59 minutes — Luongo lost the shutout when the Sharks scored with 40 seconds remaining in regulation, and San Jose tallied again with less than two minutes left in overtime to steal the victory.
This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
Sam McCaig’s From The Point column appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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