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Luongo's Fault? Luongo's Flawed?
Thursday, 16 June 2011 09:01

Having suffered a disappointing semi-professional NHL team in our backyard for a decade now, many of us were rooting for the Vancouver Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo, the only good thing the local Florida Panthers should possibly be remembered for. Last night, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Boston Bruins, he failed to deliver.

 

 

Luongo is not solely to blame for the loss, yet he did not show a flawless performance one would expect from a great goalie. As good as he may be in the regular season, Luongo is yet to prove to us all that he has the mental strength of a winner in playoffs. He may have the talent and the technique, yet he clearly struggled under pressure.

Luongo was unfortunate to spend five full seasons at the Panthers, a team with no playoff aspirations and thus no players that could score. The team's tactics relied on the goalie backstoping an obscene barrage of the opponents' shots in hopes that the forwards could squeek a couple of goals in. It almost worked: Luongo delivered (often while getting no help from the defense), but the forwards did not. Luongo played well, most of the time. But there was one obvious situation when he was failing badly: when he played against Brodeur, possibly the best active goalie of that period. Could have it been an early sign of mental weakness?

The well-deserved move to playoff-inspiring Vancouver was very disappointing for the Panthers' local fans. For Luongo, it was like going out of the frying pan into the fire. Unlike the Panthers, the Canucks did want to get into playoffs. Like the Panthers, they lacked the scoring power and thus wanted the goalie to backstop their way there.

And Luongo delivered. He did get the team into the playoffs. He did so repeatedly. Meanwhile, the Canucks scoring improved, yet it never became stellar. Luongo had to continue to endure a high number of shots every game. He seemed to be able to do it, most of the time. Unfortunately, his lack of mental toughness started to become obvious in the tears after his first lost series, the two lost series against the Chicago Blackhawks and even this year's barely won first-round series against the same Chicago team.

Could the Canucks have won the 7-game Finals series had Luongo been psychologically stronger? Yes. Did they deserve to win with a 2-for-33 power play and an 8-23 goal difference? No. They only scored 5 goals that matter in 7 games. Two of the three games they did win were 1-0 games in a sports when you can't expect to win often by scoring just once.

Yet, on his part, Luongo needs to find a way to improve his mental strength, acquire psychological toughness and deliver truly winning performance to improve his reputation and silence his doubters. We, his fans in Florida, can't help him. But we will root for him and continue to hope.

 

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