|Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo is adamantly opposed to the possibility of the NHL eventually widening the nets.
Roberto Luongo, who could probably thrive in front of a soccer net if he had to, said that he would retire the second so much as an inch is added to the current cage dimensions. He is obviously not in favor of larger nets.
“If that day comes, I don't think you guys will be seeing me in the NHL,” he said. “I have no intentions of playing with bigger nets.”
Good news for Canucks fans: The nets will be the same size this season, and therefore, Luongo will be in front of your cage again.
There was a doctored, photo-shopped picture circulating the Internet this summer. Under the title 2006-07 Vancouver Canucks, there was Luongo, sitting on a bench all by himself. The rest of the players from the team photo had been erased.
And while it seemed that Luongo was all alone at times last season, there were definitely 19 other players dressed for every game he played in. Only his game was so sharp last season, he was so valuable to the Canucks, that it only seemed like Luongo was doing it all on his own. Luongo was so good that even on the nights he didn’t have much support, he was really all Vancouver needed.
Luongo, in his first season with the Canucks -- after living in the NHL shadows for years in the Sunshine State -- emerged as one of the top two goalies in the world with Martin Brodeur. He turned in his finest season as a pro in the hockey-loving city of Vancouver, where he became a local hero, the face of the franchise and a guiding light that helped the Canucks finish third in the tightly packed Western Conference standings.
Luongo admitted that there was a bit of a feeling-out process he was going through at this time last year, when he was getting his bearings on a new town and new teammates after he was traded from Florida. He wanted so much to impress his new team and the Vancouver fans, and that sometimes got in the way of his, well, being Roberto Luongo.
“It’s night and day,” Luongo told NHL.com this week, comparing last fall to this one. “I got here and I already had a place. I got here, and I already knew all the guys and I was already comfortable with the system and the way we play, so I can tell a big difference in training camp, just the way I feel on the ice. I feel 100 times better than I did last year and hopefully that will make a big difference when the season gets started.”
That’s not good news for the opposition.
Luongo admitted that at times last season he was too wrapped up in proving himself within his new surroundings. That is no longer an issue, because, really, everyone in Vancouver knows exactly what they have in Luongo this year. What the Canucks have is an all-planet goalie who is capable of stealing a win on any given night, a player they can build around in their chase to win the Stanley Cup.
“I think everybody knew what type of goalie I was,” said Luongo, who recorded 47 victories last season. “But at the same time, when you don’t know people, you always want to make sure you make a good impression. Seeing someone on TV once in a while and seeing someone on a daily basis are two totally different things, so I think people had to get to know me a little more.”
Last season, Luongo made it look too easy. In addition to winning 47 games, second in the League, he wrapped up his first season in Vancouver with a 2.29 GAA, which was tied for sixth in the NHL, and a .921 save-percentage, which placed him fourth among all goalies. Luongo says it wasn’t until the season was half over that he finally felt comfortable in the crease, if you can believe that.
|"I feel 100 times better than I did last year and hopefully that will make a big difference when the season gets started." -- Roberto Luongo|
From that point on, Luongo and the Canucks finished the season on a 26-14-3 tear that earned them a top-three seed in the playoffs. Their year eventually ended in the second round of the playoffs when they lost in five games to the Cup-champion Anaheim Ducks. While it was not Vancouver’s first taste of playoff hockey, it was Luongo’s first appearance in the tournament.
“It was a great experience, that's for sure,” he said. “Something that I'll never forget and look forward to having many more of. I think what I've learned is more of something that involved the playoffs and not really something that involved the regular season. All I can bring to this season from last year is the excitement, the feeling you have when you're in the playoffs. It just gets you more revved up to have a good year and make sure that you're part of it again.”
In years past, it was the thought of getting to the playoffs for the first time that fueled Luongo. But now that he’s been there and done that, the mission in Vancouver is to take the next step and challenge for the Stanley Cup.
“I think we want to take it to the next level,” Luongo said. “As far as the team is concerned, we were proud of what we accomplished last year because not a lot of people put us in that situation. Now that we've been there, we've had a taste of it. We want to take the next step, which would be obviously trying to win the Stanley Cup. We know there's a lot of hard work to be done. We're in a tough division. At the same time, we know that we have the capability as far as talent in the locker room and character to do it.”
Just as long as the nets stay the same size.