2010-11 ushered in a lot of changes for Roberto Luongo. Luongo got a new goalie coach, who immediately started making changes to his style. He lost his captaincy. The team put more emphasis on ensuring backup Cory Schneider got into games on a regular basis.
Yet, despite those changes, Luongo’s results remain remarkably similar.
On the surface, things do seem improved. Roberto Luongo has seen his save percentage jump up to 0.926 – far better than the 0.913 he recorded last season and better than any full-season total he has recorded to date as a Canuck (he’s still behind his remarkable 0.931 performance in 2003-04). That’s certainly an encouraging sign.
However, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this from Luongo.
To begin with, this season started like any other. Luongo managed a 0.907 save percentage in October; over four previous seasons as a Canuck he’s averaged 0.908. He improved upon that in November, putting up an 0.914 save percentage in that month, well below his Canucks average of 0.929. He put together an 0.922 save percentage in December, falling just short of his (again) 0.929 average as a Canuck in that month.
Than Luongo caught fire in January, going 6-0-4 with a 0.947 SV%. He gets these hot streaks at least one month every season. In 2009-10, it was his 0.932 SV% December. In 2008-09, it was a 5-1-2 November where he managed a mind-boggling 0.959 SV%. The year before that, Luongo stretched his streak over two months, going 14-5-3 with five shutouts and an 0.941 SV%. His first season with the Canucks, the hot streak landed in January, where Luongo’s 0.945 SV% is almost a mirror image of what he has accomplished this year.
The challenge is to keep the streak, or even a slightly reduced streak, going. Every year it seems like Luongo slows down a little bit from his mid-season peak, easing up a little bit through February, March and April. (It’s worth noting here that despite this tendency and his unfortunate reputation, Luongo’s career playoff numbers are actually quite good – on par with his regular season numbers).
Luongo’s certainly off to a good start in February, with two wins and a 0.956 SV%. Maybe all these changes have made a difference; perhaps he will just keep on rolling and put up career-best numbers. All I’m saying is that we’ve seen these beautiful stretches from Luongo before, and I’ll need to see it last before I’m convinced that he really has stepped things up another level. If his current performance does last, it will be something truly remarkable: it’s not an everyday occurrence to see one of the league’s truly elite goaltenders find another level at the age of 31.