Roberto Luongo (Getty Images)
Robert Luongo entered the history books Thursday becoming the 11th goalie in NHL history to win 400 games. Whether he has the hardware or not, Luongo is one of the greatest goalies ever, and these 10 saves prove it.
By turning aside 34 of the 35 shots he faced Thursday night, Roberto Luongo picked up his 400th career win in the Florida Panthers 6-1 romping of the Carolina Hurricanes.
With win 400, Luongo became just the 11th goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone and sits a single victory behind Chris Osgood to move into a tie for 10th all-time. With the Panthers having four games left on their schedule, it’s not entirely inconceivable that Luongo could pass or tie Grant Fuhr, who has 403 victories to his name and sits in ninth place all-time.
With such a career milestone comes the opportunity to look back on how exactly Luongo got here. While he has the Olympic Gold medal and William M. Jennings Trophy to his name, Luongo doesn’t have a Vezina Trophy, nor does he have a Stanley Cup. Regardless of what hardware he does or doesn’t have, it’s hard to argue that Luongo is one of the greatest goaltenders of his generation.
Here are Roberto Luongo’s 10 greatest saves:
10. Luongo robs Raffi Torres with reaching glove save
Before even entering the NHL, Luongo made his mark during the 1999 World Junior Championship in Winnipeg thanks in large part to his incredible glove hand. When he came over the big leagues, his wicked glove followed him. Years later, he was still dishing out big glove saves and Raffi Torres got a first-hand look at what Luongo can do.
The best part about this save is that after the stop, Torres almost appears to be laughing in disbelief. It sets up the rest of this list nicely, too, because by the end you’ll be doing the same.
9. Rookie Rask has surefire goal stolen
Take this stop against Carolina Hurricanes rookie Victor Rask, for example. Rask has Luongo beat and should be able to simply slide the puck home. Instead, Luongo reaches back and makes an unbelievable glove save.
Usually people refer to the first big hit a player takes in the big league as their "Welcome to the NHL" moment, but getting robbed by Luongo seems like the one of the moments Rask will recall most about his first year in the league.
8. Incredible focus denies Justin Schultz
Sometimes there are amazing saves made on 50-50 pucks – shots that might go in or might not, but look threatening at the time. Regardless of whether this puck was bound for the net or not, it’s impossible not to watch Schultz have his attempt batted out of the air by Luongo as the puck sails above his head and not be impressed.
From the top angle, the puck looks like it was ready to drop in behind Luongo. That makes this save worthy of every bit of praise.
7. A shootout beauty on Chris Kunitz
At this point in his career, Luongo has a few miles on him and is one of the few starting netminders who were around before you could win by way of the shootout. Luckily for Luongo, all the shootout did was add another wrinkle in the game in which he could embarrass shooters with saves he had no right making.
The best thing about this clip is it shows that Luongo has made somewhat of a habit of having to bend back and rob shootout attempts, but that he makes it look easy every single time. And against a veteran like Kunitz, you would think he might come in and know he has to really fire it to get it past Luongo. Not the case, however, as Kunitz thinks he has an easy tally only to be denied by Luongo’s glove.
6. Luongo goes windmill on Ryan Smyth in playoffs
While he’s never won the Stanley Cup and many put the blame squarely on his shoulders for the Canucks’ inability to capture playoff glory during his time in Vancouver, it’s hard to imagine the Canucks would have even had the chance to win it all were it not for Luongo. This save is case-in-point.
There were likely a lot of words going through Smyth’s head when he saw Luongo’s glove go up and snag that puck, and we’re sure most of them aren’t fit for print.
5. Post-to-post stop stones Mike Modano
Modano was one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation and an American hockey legend. But even the greatest scorers meet their match every so often. Luongo’s sliding stop on Modano is one of those, “How did he bend that way?” saves that never ceases to amaze.
At the end of his career, Modano finished with 561 goals. If it weren’t for this miraculous stop, that number would have been 562.
4. Kristian Huselius has a goal taken off of his stick
Luongo has made most of his great saves by stretching out and snaring a blast with his glove, but his stop on Huselius is special because it’s the equivalent of getting stuffed when going for a slam-dunk.
Huselius dekes past Luongo, has the entire net to slide the puck into but can’t finish the job because Luongo reaches back and literally takes the puck right off of Huselius’ stick. There’s no doubt he heard about that one the next day.
3. Luongo drops stick, makes insane goal line stop on Jack Johnson
Prepare for a trio of remarkable, impossible-looking saves.
First, comes this stop on Johnson when he was with the Los Angeles Kings. After Ryan Smyth puts the puck on goal, it bounces off of Luongo and into the pads of Johnson. The puck then careens towards the goal, finds its way through Luongo, who drops his stick, contorts his body, reaches back and sweeps the puck to safety.
That Ryan Smyth got a front-row seat to this stop is hilarious. It was the perfect bit of foreshadowing for being robbed by Luongo years later.
2. Playoff beauty on Ben Eager
Much of the reason Luongo caught heat in Vancouver was because of the Canucks’ back-to-back post-season losses to the Chicago Blackhawks in the post-season. In the 2008-09 and 2009-10 playoffs, Blackhawks defeated the Canucks in six games, before Vancouver finally beat Chicago in a seven-game first-round series in 2010-11. The series victory was followed by a confetti celebration.
This incredible stop comes from the first of the three series in 2008-09. Luongo, who looks entirely out of position to make the stop on Eager’s try following a Troy Brouwer shot, somehow dives back and keeps the puck from slipping home.
1. Ryane Clowe can’t believe he didn’t score
Luongo’s stop on Clowe is outstanding for a few reasons. First, he doesn’t have his stick when the initial shot on goal comes his way. Second, he decides to grab his stick before lunging to make the save. Third, watching how he is holding onto his stick when he makes the save. It’s almost as if he’s poke-checking the puck out of mid-air.
One of the greatest things in hockey is the expression of disbelief after being robbed. That Clowe remains in the same position after taking the shot and watching the save just about says it all. He has no idea how this puck didn’t go in.