For the second time in 9 days, the Vancouver Canucks face the San Jose Sharks, as both clubs sit atop their respective divisions.Nine days ago, the Canucks started strong and played a solid game to win 3-2 in Vancouver. This time around, there is a lot of talk and questions around Roberto Luongo. The question is, "Is he ‘back’?"
Call it a "low compete level". Call it an "Olympic hangover". Call it "fatigue". You can label it however you like, but the fact is that the Canucks captain has been nothing but average for the month of March. Sure, he has flashes of brilliance but so do most NHL goalies. Sure he’s made some gaffes, but so do most NHL goalies. And that’s the problem. Roberto Luongo is NOT just another NHL goalie. He is supposed to be an elite player in his position. The cream of the crop. And frankly, Lu has been well below his par since returning with a gold medal around his neck.
Luongo says now that he feels revitalized after taking a few days off. Let’s hope so. And if that is the case, then the Canucks should rest him for at least one more start before the start of the playoffs. It is clear that Andrew Raycroft is up to the challenge. You could argue that Rayzer was easily the more stable presence in net since March 1st.
Truthfully, that’s all irrelevant tonight, as Luongo returns between the pipes to face the San Jose Sharks. And they need him to be at the top of his game, as the Sharks are one of the best home teams in the league. Surprisingly, for all the Sharks’ firepower, one of their biggest strengths at home is their penalty killing (ranked 3rd), while their home power play is ranked 23rd.
The Canucks have a tough test ahead of them tonight. But it all comes down to their captain tonight. Can Roberto Luongo stand up to the challenge? Will he shut the door early, or let in a couple of early softies?
It’s time for Bobby Lu to show he’s ready for the playoffs.