Bruce Ng: Canucks “Wagon Watch” after a 4-3 loss in Anaheim.

Luongo's wagon isn't this lonely. Yet.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

Tonight the Canucks lost a tough one 4-3 against the Ducks in Anaheim. Down 4-0 to start the 3rd period, the boys staged a nice comeback effort that ultimately fell short by a goal.

Canucks Bandwagon: 70% Full

The Canucks played the night before in Los Angeles, and picked up a 3-2 win. Last night they built a 3-0 lead after one period, and coasted to the 3-2 final. Tonight, they slow-played the first period, and melted down in the 2nd, allowing 4 goals. To their credit (and my surprise!), the Canucks came roaring back in the 3rd, scoring 3 goals of their own, earning a power play chance late in the game, but still lost by a goal. It was an entertaining finish and gave the fans something to cheer for – at least for the fans that hadn’t shut off their TV by then.

Luongo Bandwagon: 30% Full

Luongo didn’t necessarily play a horrible game, but allowed 4 goals on 19 shots. All 4 goals came in the 2nd period, and Luongo did not return for the 3rd. There is an old hockey adage that says the goaltender needs to be your best penalty killer; unfortunately that wasn’t the case tonight. Luongo’s wagon might have even less people, but Schneider only had to make 2 saves in the entire 3rd period as the Canucks spent the entire period pouring on the offensive pressure. The Luongo Bandwagon exodus was also tempered by the fact that he picked up a pretty good win the night before.

#Rome4Norris Campaign Suffers Setback

Aaron Rome had made some mistakes earlier in the game, but the team was able to get out of the 1st period still in a scoreless tie. Rome took a 5-minute major for elbowing, which came with a game misconduct in the 2nd period. The Ducks scored twice on the ensuing power play, and the Canucks were forced to play the rest of the game with 5 defencemen. If Rome isn’t Shanabanned by the league for that elbow, he’ll have to score at least 2 more goals to make up for tonight’s game.

Bruce Ng: Canucks Wagon Watch after a 6-2 win over Chicago.

The bandwagon is at mid capacity after Sunday's win in Chitown.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

Canucks Bandwagon: 70% Full

Special teams were surgical tonight. The power play converted 5 out of 6 chances, and the penalty kill was a perfect 5 for 5. The second period has been a big let-down for the Canucks this season, but they outscored the Hawks tonight 4-1 in the middle frame, and sustained a decent pace throughout the game. It was a big win in tough enemy territory, so the wagon has a few more folks on it.

Luongo Bandwagon: 50% Full

The Blackhawks first goal tied the game at 1. It really was a bad goal – Frolik beat him with a long wrist shot from 55 feet out along the boards. Deflected or not, Luongo should have had that one. After the Blackhawks first goal, I’m pretty sure the Luongo haters were calling for Schneider, and the Hawks fans were salivating hoping that Luongo would cave, however, to his credit, he settled down really nicely after that. Luongo made some solid saves when the score was 4-2, and again at the end of the 2nd period to hold a 3-goal lead heading into the intermission. Despite making 38 saves, the first goal prevented fans from climbing back onto the wagon tonight. Solid performance though.

“Familiarity Breeds Comtempt”

The Canucks posted a 6-2 win over their Western Conference rivals in Chicago. The Canucks might say that they have more contempt for Calgary, and the Hawks number one rival will likely always be the Red Wings, but it’s not hard for either team to get up for this game – they’ve met in the playoffs for the last 3 years running. Each time, the winner has gone to the Stanley Cup Final.

Sunday, the Canucks looked like they finally played a game where they had more answers than questions.

Breaking News!!! The real reason Roberto Luongo struggles early in the season!

I know I know…another Luongo blog. But when you see what we’ve uncovered you’ll be glad we posted this.

Everyone knows that Roberto Luongo struggles early in the NHL season. Well we’ve uncovered the reason why, and it has nothing to do with his play! He’s a BC Lions fan! TMZ is going to be all over this!

This photo below provides proof that Luongo has invested in a body double that plays the first part of the season for him, while he watches his beloved BC Lions down the stretch of the CFL season. Luongo, photographed here, still sporting his Stanley Cup playoff beard is seen here at the BC Lions game last in the crowd. Obviously with Russell Crowe in a suite, just mere feet away Luongo was trying to blend in with the crowd.

So Canucks fans, with the BC Lions poised to make an appearance int he 2011 Grey Cup, it could be December before we see him round into form. You be the judge…Enquiring minds want to know!

Bruce Ng: Is there a more polarizing figure in Vancouver sports than Roberto Luongo?

Roberto Luongo - Photo: Getty Images

Is there a more polarizing figure in Vancouver sports than Roberto Luongo?

People either vehemently defend him, or scrutinize every goal that gets by him. There is a long list of reasons people love him and hate him. Tonight, the Canucks lost 4-0 to the New York Rangers. And another chapter in Vancouver’s love-hate relationship with Roberto Luongo is written in 140 chars or less on Twitter.

@farhanmohamed: I foresee a night of Luongo-hating comments, as usual. #Canucks

In case you thought tonight’s game was pretty bad, the last time the Rangers won in Vancouver, Wayne Gretzky was playing for the Rangers, and Mark Messier wore the captain’s “C” for the Canucks. Think about that for a moment. Those were dark days in Canucks history – Trevor Linden was stripped of the C and driven out of town. Goaltenders included names like Kirk McLean, Corey Hirsch, Arturs Irbe, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin, and Dan Cloutier.

One characteristic that is common among all of these guys – none were real winners. Don’t get me wrong – some of them won some games. However, most of these guys had a habit of letting in a soft goal, usually once per game.

In hockey, the object of the game is to score more goals than your opponent. The team that scores the most goals wins.

@kohmcradu: Remember that one time when the goalie couldn’t win the game for the entire team? Defense, anyone? #Canucks

@causticchick: Here we go again with the Luongo hate. He’s not the only one on the ice, people. You win by scoring goals. We haven’t done that. #Canucks

Despite the basic object of the game, and the Canucks not scoring any goals at all tonight, or 2 games ago in Detroit, people will continue to blame Luongo for the loss.

One of the biggest reasons I love hockey is because it is an ultimate team game. There are rare individuals that can dominate a shift, but when hockey is played as a team – a unit of players with a common goal – that is when hockey is the greatest. The team that plays together has a synergistic effect, and wins games.

In hockey, it is rarely one player that loses a game for a team, and so the performance of a hockey club should be assessed with an eye to the team – not to just one player.

One of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history, Patrick Roy once said, “For goaltenders everything is playing between your ears.   If you can believe it, you can do it.  If you’re not confident when you start, it makes a difference.

@DanielKhatkar: I think if this city showed a little support for #1 his mind would be in a completely different place

@AY604: You know how you build confidence in a goalie, you give him the Bronx cheer at home! Good work #Canuck fans!

@korvan: We had one of the best goalies in the league when we got Luongo, now we have a basket case. I wonder what caused that? #Canucks

Even Patrick Roy tells us that confidence is an important characteristic in a goalie. When Luongo was traded to Vancouver, he was lauded as one of Canada’s greatest goaltenders. Drafted by the Islanders, traded to the Panthers, he was stuck on horrible teams, but got to play for his country in the World Hockey Championships. Luongo coming to the Canucks was supposed to be a marriage made in Hockey Heaven.

What happened?

In September 2009, the Canucks signed Luongo to a 12-year contract extension worth $64 million. With salary comes expectations.

@TheFalconer: I think the entire team got deked out of their jock straps on that one. But we’ll just blame Luongo, it’s easier.

Many fans in Vancouver believe that Luongo is one of the highest paid players in the NHL. In fact, he is the 62nd highest paid player in the NHL, in terms of salary cap hit, at $5.3 million. This puts Luongo right behind James Wisniewski and Phil Kessel, and slightly ahead of Corry Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.  He has the 7th highest cap hit this year among goaltenders, just behind Mikka Kiprusoff and Ilya Bryzgalov.

The expectations on Luongo are likely not realistic. No one player will bring about a dynasty of championships, despite what the haters will have you believe. And to win games, the team has to  score goals – this is hockey at it’s most basic.

So this brings about the burning question: 

@wilsons618: Why is it everyone loves McLean when he hasn’t won us anything, but hates Luongo, who’s probably the best goalie that the #Canucks have had?

The answer is somewhere between expectations and results. With McLean (admittedly, my favourite Canucks goaltender of all time), expectations were low. He was a good goaltender, but he was not supposed to carry the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks in 1993-94 were the 7th seed in the Western Conference. They were underdogs in each of their series, and should not have made it out of the first round. Yet they defeated the Flames, Stars and Leafs on an unlikely run to face the Rangers in the final. The Canucks that year shouldn’t have pushed the series to 7 games, but they did against a heavily favoured Rangers team. And they left it all out on the ice, and came within a goalpost of a Stanley Cup.

With Luongo, expectations were high to begin with, and higher every year since. Win games. Sign a long term contract extension. Make the goaltender the captain of the team. Win games by shutout. Take the C away to relieve the pressure. Start him in less games to get him rest. Change the goaltending coach, change his style. Win playoff series. Win more playoff series. Win the Stanley Cup – is there anything else?

Is this a tweet from the future?

@PabloP74: I see a ‘Roy’ situation in Vancouver where Lu gets hung out to dry then demands a trade only to win Stanley cup with new team! #ProfoundLoss

It’s possible. It happened with Roy – widely viewed around the NHL as one of the great goaltenders in the game, he won Stanley Cups, multiple Vezina and Jennings trophies, and even two Conn Smythe trophies, but it still wasn’t enough for Montreal fans, who gave him the Bronx cheer in a lopsided 11-1 game during the 1995-96 season.

It was a different situation and in a different era, but Roy demanded a trade and was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche. That very season, Roy helped the Avalanche win their first Stanley Cup.

For all the October Luongo-haters out there – see you back on the wagon in November! And be careful what you wish for!

Through the Plexi-Glass: Can You Pump Tires in a Goalie Graveyard?

As I was coming home from the game and gazed at my twitter feed, I saw of a lot of “Trade Luongo!” and a lot of panicking over a just under .500 record for the first few games of the regular season. Mostly, it was all about how Luongo lost the game for the Canucks and it was entirely his fault. So I’ve taken it upon myself to do some proverbial ‘pumping of tires’. Why you all ask? Simple, I have a good memory of how dreadful goaltending was in this city before the likes of Roberto Luongo.

As I stated in my tweet: @Aviewfromabroad “Problem isn’t #Luongo . Problem is the wanna-be fans that bought into the “2nd coming” hype that was built about him. #Takeaccountability” I never bought into the whole “LuonGod” hype.

He is a good goalie, but at the same time, he was still just a human who will have his bad days like you or I. Unfortunately for Luongo, he is now in a market that actually gives a hoot of how he performs on the ice instead of about 4500 fans in Miami. I also understand the whole “with the position comes the scrutiny” baggage but when the baggage is more like the cargo space of a 747, how is one supposed to ‘carry’ all that without some self-doubt? It’s close to impossible, regardless of talent level. I’m not trying to psycho-babble you all the death, I’m just saying that perhaps instead of jumping on Lu’s case constantly, take a step back and let him breathe.

Luongo Waving to the Vancouver crowd. Will it be goodbye soon?

For me, I want to give Luongo some time to prove himself. It is a new season after all. Although for some, this just a continuation of all the bad games Luongo has played as a Canuck.  I want him to build up some confidence that has seemingly been lost and play like a machine more often than not. So far in this very young season, he’s not been great. To help him out as a fan, I thought it would be a good idea for me to “pump his tires” because despite all the hype and the bashing, I would rather have Roberto Luongo (as is) than Dan Cloutier, Corey Hirsch, Alfie Michaud, Troy Gamble, Petr Skudra, Bob Essensa, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin etc. etc. etc. Why, do some of you ask? I’ve seen awful, and it has been far worse than Roberto Luongo.

For those of you that don’t recognize some of those names, it’s because they didn’t last very long in this market. Let’s take Petr Skudra for example. He was one of Dan Cloutier’s backups. Did you know an angry fan actually used his name as an auction item on eBay? The description was to the effect of a Canucks’ back up goaltender, with a big five hole and no glove.  The starting bid was $1 CAD. I’m not sure if anyone ever even made a bid, but it was at the time, quite amusing. Oddly enough, I am waiting for some know-it-all ‘fan’ to put Luongo up for auction on eBay with the description of “Vezina nominated, gold medal winning goalie that can’t please a fan base no matter what he does”. I’d at least start the bidding at $5…out of ‘respect’ of course.

It’s good to know that I am not the only one out there that feels  Luongo is getting too much heat. However, I believe he can and should be better, but I’m not going to go off demanding Mike Gillis and his management and coaching staff try to trade him immediately. The thing is, I have this belief (and statistical history to back it up) that Luongo will pull it together sooner than later. Here are some from the twitterverse that feel the same way after the 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday Night:

  • @lyteforce: If Luongo were to reverse global warming, people would blame him for it being too cold. #Canucks #lousfault
  • @patersonjeff: Can dump on #Canucks goaltending, but how about forwards who have 1 even strength goal in last 10 periods. That don’t cut it
  • @j_carpenter_What difference does it make? if Luongo lets in 1 goal or 4..If the #Canucks dont score any they’re not gonna win..They will pull it together
  • @bobcam27-Luongo sure was terrible on the power play tonight. I don’t remember him getting a single shot on goal. #Canucks

We’re all good at playing ‘arm-chair’ GM from time to time, and I certainly will be the first to admit I do it as well, but how many times do so many of us have to put out virtual trades with the involvement of Roberto Luongo in them? How about we trade those guys that aren’t scoring? How about we trade the whole blue line? I guess because it’s easier to blame the goaltender, and particularly, Roberto Luongo. I’m asking you for a 20 game grace period to stop. Please.  For the next few games that Luongo plays, instead of going “Trade Luongo!”, perhaps a little encouragement might help.  The power of positivity is a pretty cool thing, even though I’m not a big time New Age follower, there is truth in it.

I don’t mind ‘pumping Roberto’s tires’ more often than not, a pumped tire usually gets you further ahead.  Not to mention,  it sucks to run on a flat. Besides, if you leave it deflated too long, it might just damage the rim and you’ll have to replace the whole wheel.

That’s how I see things…through the plexi-glass.