Roberto Luongo can't get no respect

Although his critics like to call him one of the most overrated goalies in the NHL, Roberto Luongo has gradually become one of the most underrated. Yes, it’s true: underrated.

Luongo is currently on his way back from an injury he suffered on December 22, and the song remains the same: no respect. Here in Vancouver, where there are more Luongo skeptics per capita than anywhere else, the love for promising backup Eddie Lack has reached the ring-and-proposal stage.

This is a repeat of the Cory Schneider fest last season, when that younger goalie’s own gaffes were politely ignored and his every half-decent save was hailed as a sign that Terry Sawchuk had returned from the dead. In the meantime, Luongo got treated like compost, not least by Canuck management, who made a big public deal out of their plans to ship him out of town and then, a while later, changed their mind.

Where does the scorn come from? Is it anything to do with a career pattern of late-period meltdowns? Luongo has indeed shown a knack for letting in the occasional heartbreaker in the last minute-and-a-half of a big game. An office colleague here likes to point out the tying goal that Team USA’s Zach Parise scored on him with 25 seconds left in regulation in the 2010 Olympic gold-medal match.

But Luongo eventually won that contest—maybe the most pressurized game ever played in Canada. No small thing. And his counterpart, the USA’s Ryan Miller, lost on a shot he probably should have stopped. Yet Miller has never drawn the slicing criticism Luongo has.

Then there were Lu’s collapses in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against Boston. Oh, those were bad, no question. But he also racked up two shutouts in the series, and hardly deserved the goat horns that some fans and media members wanted to place on him as they giddily explained what an all-round awesome and fun-loving dude the Bruins’ Tim Thomas appeared to be. That particular line went quiet the following January, when Thomas outed himself as a crank and his own team dumped him.

The thing is, it’s always some other goalie. “Yeah, Luongo’s good but he’s not [pick a name]”: Pekka Rinne, Jonas Hiller, Antti Niemi, Jaroslav Halak… whoever, on and on, back in time. Some have done what Luongo has so far failed to do—win a Cup—but most have barely made it to the second round of the playoffs. They’ve had up years and down years. That goes even for the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, regularly assumed by eastern media to be the best goalie “on the planet” and who has looked pretty average, pretty creakily human, in 2013-14.

It's what happens to most goalies—a fact that makes Luongo’s year-in-year-out consistency admirable. We spent last summer, for example, hearing all about the goaltending juggernaut that would be Team USA at the upcoming Sochi Olympics, and about Canada’s astounding failure to keep up in net (a not-so-indirect shot at Luongo himself, the incumbent gold-medallist at the position). And then, with an injury here and a drifting-back-to-Earth there, Americans like Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, and Jonathan Quick haven't looked quite so scary.

Does that mean Luongo will get the respect he’s earned? Good lord, no, don’t be foolish. Now much of the punditry has Carey Price starting in net for Team Canada. It’s a spot Price won for himself with his fine playoff run back in…uh… or rather his record of big-game success, like when he…uh… Hm. Nevermind.

We just know it can’t be Luongo. Right? Anyone but Luongo.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
Mike
Are you saying "boo" or "bouongo"?
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Kiskatinawkid
Luongo is and always has been one of the best goalies in the league. The major problem with the Canucks are their fans. Not all, but definitely an inordinately huge numbers of morons.
Blame Lou, blame the guy doing the laundry, whatever.
And then RIOT!!! It's so cool!
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Martin Dunphy
Canucks fans eat their young. They wistfully remember the good old days of Kirk McLean and Richard Brodeur (and I liked them both), but overlook Luongo's consistency and value to the team.
In Luongo's worst-ever season as a Canuck (2009-10), his GAA of 2.57 was better than the career averages of both those former Vancouver stalwarts, and he won 40 (!) games out of 68 played.
For those who hold Luongo's lack of playoff success (meaning no Stanley Cup ring) against him, all I can say is it would be nice to have a team in front that can score more than eight goals in seven playoff final games.
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Arm Chair
Loved Lui when he was regularly peppered with 70 shots every game with Florida and still had one of the best GAA's. He is a proven awesome regular season goalie even here with Vancouver. But he's yet to prove himself as a clutch Stanley Cup pressure cooker superstar. All he's done was resemble a walrus flopping helplessly in the crease in important games. Sure he's won Olympic gold but any one of us could've taken his place on that team and won. But Lack is nowhere near Lui's league though. Not even close, not yet. So if the media is trying to exacerbate another Schneider scenario, Lui should just ignore it. Of course it's Gillis who might be listening...that's the problem.
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Michael
You do realized that other than Tukka Rask, Cory Schneider has the best save percentage ever, right?
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Martin Dunphy
Michael:

Are you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?
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Dude
It's all about winning, and I don't mean winning percentage.

Stats are for losers and player agents.
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far_raf
Thank you for the rational article, nice to see one. The bulk of the fan opinion is "media hyperbole" driven. Lou is the best goalie this team has ever had and he remains just that.

far_raf
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Fans
I'm from Edmonton, When our team was down we cheered harder and harder which pumped the team up and we usually won, FIVE CUPS worth.

Fans here only cheer when it's a blow out and if the Nucks start to lose the fans throw everything under the bus. It goes silent.

Sad fans in a sad city.

FUCKING CHEER for your team and support them you wanks.

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Bill From Walley
Luongo (more like Luu-I let 50 goals in every 1000 shot-go) just ins't a good Canadian kid. He lacks grittiness and can't be counted in the clutch. His effort lacks the additional 10% of 110%. He doesn't understand the "Code"- calling out Thomas in the playoffs - wouldn't do that without the instigator penalty! Pretty boy, face mask wearing, skills contest starring, sliding all over the ice every game! He will end his career like Bure's. And Where did Pavel finish his carrer? Strung up from the rafters, and locked away in a hall somewhere...
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