When it comes to technique, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider are extremely similar goaltenders. They’re both large, athletic goalies who play a reasonably aggressive, technically sound butterfly style. They both like to challenge shooters and cut off the angle, and both have an elite catching mitt, making both of them tough to beat glove side. Schneider is somewhat quicker post-to-post than the older Luongo, and Luongo is somewhat more conservative in his movements – but stylistically, they bring a similar approach to the net.
In terms of their differences, there are the obvious ones. Luongo is from Montreal, Schneider from Marblehead. One came through the QMJHL, and played in the memorial cup – while Schneider is the product of College Hockey, and played in the Frozen Four with Boston College. Schneider is a ginger with an Eisenhower era haircut, while Luongo sports long, flowing Romance novel locks, that seem to be perpetually covered in grease. Luongo is one of the highest paid goaltenders in the NHL, Schneider makes less than a million per year on his second pro-contract.
But the thing that really stands out between the two is their proficiency with words.
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On the one hand, Schneider is incredibly well-spoken, a go-to guy for reporters in need of a quote. He can wax eloquently about politics, he’ll defend his teammates convincingly, and he can even discuss the intricacies of the salary-cap and the business side of professional hockey. In most of the interviews Schneider gives – he strikes one as intelligent and self-aware in the extreme.
Today NHL.com’s Brian Hedger asked Schneider about a possible postseason matchup – for a fourth straight year – between the Canucks and the Blackhawks. Here’s what Schneider had to say:
I know some people lost years off their lives last year, so it’s great drama. It’s great hockey. As much as we don’t like each other, we have a ton of respect for one another.
That’s a perfect answer. It captures what makes the rivalry between the two clubs awesome, and yet, doesn’t give the Blackhawks anything even remotely resembling "bulletin board material."
On being a starter eventually elsewhere, Schneider told Hedger:
[I don’t really think about it] It’s out of your control. That wouldn’t be fair to this team. [But] I’d like to think that I’ve earned an opportunity. Right now, if Lu’s playing well, he’s going to be the guy. He’s proven he can win in the playoffs and got us that far last year.
Those are not easy questions to answer, but Schneider’s responses were pitch perfect, and still insightful. While it’s clear that Schneider’s commitment to his current team comes first, he also conveys the hunger and competitiveness that has got him this far as a pro-goaltender.
On the other hand, you’ve got Luongo who – to continue with the extremity metaphors – perpetually has his foot in his mouth. Here’s what he told Province reporters about looking forward to today’s Detroit Red Wings game
We were hoping they’d still be undefeated by the time we got there, so it’s going to be fun. I was talking to the guys two or three weeks ago, hoping Detroit would hold on till we got there. That’s what’s fun about playing the game, challenges like this. As a group, we’re excited about it and we’re going to step up to the plate.
Now in fairness to Luongo, there’s nothing wrong with those comments. Luongo, despite his reputation, is a gamer who relishes playing in tough games on the road. Nothing wrong with that on a surface level…
Except, somehow, his statement got misinterpreted as him guaranteeing a win tonight and today, he was asked to clarify. Seriously. So Luongo was asked why he wanted the Red Wings streak to be alive when the Canucks rolled into town, and responded with:
Just because it’s fun, It’s a great challenge for our team. We’re excited about it and I think guys want to put out a great effort tonight to try and break the streak. I didn’t say we were going to beat them, I said it was a challenge for us to come here and try to beat them. I mean, I think guys are excited about that. I never said we were going to come in here and win. I just said we were excited about the opportunity and that it’s a great challenge for our team to try and do something special.
Oy vey. You know what Luongo needs? He needs to get an adult bike with hand-breaks so he can stop back-pedaling.
To some extent this is a reputation moment – Luongo didn’t even come close to "guaranteeing" a Canucks win tonight, and it got spun that way partly because of who Luongo is. That said, while Canucks fans were also hoping to see their team get a shot at breaking the Red Wings streak, for Luongo to express that sentiment does come off as cocky.
And this is the major difference between Luongo and Schneider – Schneider uses words in a thoughtful and inscrutable way, while Luongo puts, maybe, a bit too much emotion and personality into his.
Luongo is an extremely funny guy, with a great personality that shows through a bit too much at times. While I’m convinced he’ll one day make a peerless sports broadcaster, as an active player, his words too often get him into trouble. Schneider on the other hand seems like a funny guy too, but he’s able to convey his thoughts and opinions in an impressive, balanced fashion and never rubs anyone the wrong way. Luongo may one day be a great hockey broadcaster, but Schneider is the guy with the chops to end up in an NHL front-office when his playing days are done.