John Garrett: The goalie story
Roberto Luongo can't play all the games, no matter how good he is.
Recently I asked coach Terry Murray of the Los Angeles Kings when he was going to give his prized workhorse, Jonathan Quick, a game off and start back up Erik Ersberg.
Murray did 11 games ago after Quick lost back to back games and allowed six goals to Detroit and St. Louis. Ersberg started was in San Jose and he lost 2-1, though Ersberg played well and gave his team a chance to win in a building where the home team has lost only five times this year. That’s a tall order for any squad.
Since then, Jonathon Quick has started 11 straight games. Jacques Lemaire in New Jersey started Yann Danis on Monday in Toronto after Marty Brodeur had allowed seven goals in his previous two starts. It was only Danis’ eighth appearance this season.
So what’s this got to do with the Canucks?
Roberto Luongo started the first 12 games of the season and then missed the next six with a rib injury. He came back and started nine more before getting a rest in an afternoon game in Carolina (that was a 10:30 am start on Vancouver clocks).
The fact that Luongo was hurt in an afternoon game in Pittsburgh last season may have influenced Alain Vigneault’s decision to play Andrew Raycroft against the Canes, but who knows.
Luongo then started the next 26 games before getting the night off in Ottawa, which the Canucks lost 3-1. BUT, 17 of those 26 games were at home. Only twice did the Canucks play back-to-back games, and they were at home to Edmonton with a short flight to Calgary, and in Edmonton with a game at home against Dallas the next night. During that stretch Luongo allowed three or more goals only twice.
We all knew that Andrew Raycroft would see some action in this eight-game trip.
He played very well in a relief effort against the Leafs and earned a ‘W’ on his stat sheet for his efforts. Roberto on the other hand, had a forgettable outing that saw him pulled after 20 minutes. He gave up three goals on eight shots.
The Ottawa game was one that even if you played well you still might lose. The Senators were on a 10-game winning streak and had only eight losses at home this season. Jason Spezza had scored goals in seven straight. They were on a roll. Do you play Roberto and take the chance that he has his first three-game winless streak? His first since October 5th?
Vigneault has to find some games to rest Luongo a rest. It’s not a physical rest, but a mental one. Elite goaltenders throughout the league are the ones who do not need that rest that often, but no matter who you are or how good you are every now and then, you need a break when you sit on the bench and get re-focused and don’t have to worry about that screen, that next shot, that next deflection. The game in Ottawa was one of those games.
Expect Luongo to return to the form that helped the Canucks win seven straight. Looking back at the end of the season, Thursday’s loss in Ottawa may be a sacrifice that earns crucial points down the stretch.