April 15 2012 02:20PM
With the Canucks down two games to none in their first round series against the L.A. Kings, head-coach Alain Vigneault doesn't have a lot of cards left to play. One of his possible trump cards, however, is stalwart backup goaltender Cory Schneider. Vigneault is going all in for game three, as he's confirmed that Cory Schneider will get the nod in net on Sunday evening.
Click past the jump for more.
As Cam Charron wrote over at The Backhand Shelf yesterday, Luongo's play has not been the team's issue in the first two games of the series. Also, starting Cory Schneider in game three may not be the best move from an asset management perspective:
One goalie is going to be given up in the offseason, and it’s not too early to start thinking about who it’s going to be. If the Canucks turn away from the best goalie the franchise has ever seen a pretty dire time, you aren’t doing his reputation any favours. I had pencilled in Schneider start Game Three, but assumed a 1-1 series at this point, where the stakes are lower and not as many people have their attention turned to this game.
And, come on. Has Luongo been the problem for the team? With 65 shots against and just 4 goals, to be even in this series, you’re counting on your goaltender to have a .938 save percentage just to be tied through two games. Luongo’s even strength save percentage is at .951, his problems resulting from poor goal support, five-on-five defence and an atrocious powerplay.
That's sound, convincing analysis - but with the team on the ropes, Alain Vigneault has clearly decided to role the dice in an effort to shake the team out of their totally inexcusable playoff doldrums. They could do worse than gambling on Schneider, who statistically has been superior to Roberto Luongo this season. In fact, Cory Schneider has possibly been the team's best overall player, as a backup goaltender. Here's how Jason Botchford framed the "start Schneider" argument yesterday:
Thing is, Schneider has been on the bench for the 0-2 start to this series and he may have had the best season on the team. He may in fact be the best player on the team right now. He sure is the hottest. He’s earned a chance to make a difference. And right now, the Canucks are desperate for a difference maker.
I tend to agree. Clearly, this decision isn't a reflection of Luongo's play, he acquitted himself well in both of games one and two. Schneider, however, has the potential to be a game-breaker. He's also particularly excelled at making saves in special teams situations this season, and that's where most of the Kings damage has been done in this series.
Special teams save-percentage numbers are based on tiny, non-predictive samples, but with the Canucks bleeding goals against both short-handed and on the power-play, it's certainly worth seeing if Schneider can help reverse that. Schneider's excellent short-handed save percentage will assuredly regress from its current heights over his next fifty or so starts, but it's worth seeing if he can continue to ride those percentages in the short-term.