With Cup in sight, Luongo looks to silence critics
There might be no more heavily criticized goalie than Roberto Luongo, but a win tonight would give him the Stanley Cup, silencing all the naysayers
Roberto Luongo usually is armed with an answer before he even hears the entire question.
It's a defense mechanism that comes from years of scrutiny, of people coming down on him and picking apart his game. It's human nature.That's why it was so surprising to hear him stutter and use words like "um" and "you know" before reaching into his bag of quotes and pulling out something new, something unwrinkled when he was asked to compare what his vision of the Stanley Cup grind was to the reality of what it is.
"I think it's been more challenging mentally than physically, and I didn't expect that as much," Luongo answered after a moment. "I think you learn a lot about yourself throughout the process and what it takes to win. We haven't done anything to this moment, but we feel that we're close and we're excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us."
The Canucks can win the Stanley Cup with a win in Game 6 Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) here at TD Garden. That kind of opportunity doesn't come around too often. It's something they want to embrace and, of course, not waste.
No one feels that way more than Vancouver's franchise goalie.
Luongo -- right or wrong -- arguably is the most criticized goalie ever to be 60 minutes away from winning a Stanley Cup. He has been a pinata for fans and the media since arriving in Vancouver in 2006.
Luongo can be the greatest goalie in the NHL one day and 24 hours later have his name and reputation muddied while getting called the goalie with a bloated contract who is stealing money.
He's a Vezina Trophy finalist and a gold-medal winner who has two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final and is one victory away from winning it all. But in the two days leading up to Game 6, all anybody wanted to talk about was his ill-timed comments about Tim Thomas' unorthodox style and about the 12 goals he allowed over two games in Boston earlier in the series.
He partly brought it upon himself, but it's also par for the course when it comes to Luongo.
"Even him winning the Olympic gold wasn't good enough. That's too bad," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "People in that dressing room, we know that he's a winner. He's done it on every stage before and if it happens (Monday), I hope people can stop criticizing him."
If you're around Luongo long enough, you get a sense that what people say about him actually matters to him. He can walk on the seawall in Vancouver with a hoody covering headphones blaring U2 into his ears, but still he seems to hear his critics. He knows people are talking about him, and it's rarely in the most flattering context.
But if you're around him long enough you also get the feeling that Luongo wants to silence everyone. He basically did that after he helped Canada win gold in his home city last year.
"Now I have proof," Luongo, grasping his shiny medal in his right hand, told NHL.com after he made 34 saves to win that historic gold-medal game. "No matter what people say or do, at the end of the day I'm a gold medalist and nobody can ever take that away from me."
Can you imagine what he'd say with the Stanley Cup in his hands?
"The only people I have to prove things to are myself, my teammates, and my family and friends. That's who I play for," Luongo said. "I play the game because I love it and I want to win the Stanley Cup."
Luongo has that chance Monday.
For now, the talk is all about what he had to say about Thomas and how poorly he played in Boston in Games 3 and 4.
It's up to Luongo to change the conversation. It's up to him to shut everyone up.
"If you win the Stanley Cup, no one can say anything about you," Daniel Sedin said. "That's what we all want to do and he's no different than the rest of us. We know he's going to have a good game for us. Hopefully that will be enough."