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Bounce back Bobby

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo has often said that he’s at his best in games when he’s busy between the pipes. The 45 shots that the Phoenix Coyotes threw at him Thursday night probably qualifies, and indeed the goalie was at his best.

For the Canucks skaters, it was a forgettable night. Markus Naslund, Taylor Pyatt, and Daniel Sedin extended their combined streak of no goals among them to 11 games. The Canucks’ other top scorer, Henrik, is slightly better off with one empty-netter in that span.

Meanwhile, the Canucks defense held the opposition to two goals, but it’s never a banner night when you allow 45 shots. The team that prides itself on defense has allowed more shots on just two other occasions this season.

With the skaters’ lackluster performance, it was Luongo’s show. His 43 save effort in the 2-0 loss was the one positive that the Canucks can take out of an otherwise disappointing night.

His top tier play was especially encouraging after being pulled Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks for allowing four goals on 19 shots. Clearly his off night didn’t mess with his confidence, as he bounced back and recorded a solid night in his 20th consecutive start.

In the Canucks’ last 38 games, Luongo has sat out only two.

The action came early, as the Coyotes peppered Luongo with 24 shots in the first period alone. That approached the Canucks’ franchise high for shots against, a record that was set 37 years ago when Boston managed to put 28 pucks on net in a single period.

But the Canucks, thanks to their All-Star goalie, escaped that period unscathed.

Luongo finally surrendered a goal to the pressing Coyotes on a power play in the second period when Niko Kapanen collected a deflected shot and ripped it off of the far post and in. The second goal he allowed was in the third when some missed coverage allowed Daniel Winnick to receive a cross-ice pass and put it into Louie’s top corner.

Even with the two goals that could hardly be blamed on him, Luongo still finished with a .956 save percentage, his best numbers in that column over last nine games.

His most impressive work of the night came late in the third period when Enver Lisin came down the left wing and ripped a strong shot to the far side of the net. Louie made the save, but allowed a small rebound on the tough shot.

Craig Weller was following up on the play, and collected the puck while Luongo was down. The goalie sprawled out to cover the bottom of the net, but Weller’s shot hit the post. Snapping up his own rebound, Weller wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice and he made sure to hit the net and get it up high. But from his belly, Luongo reached out his glove, snagging the puck in midair, just before it crossed the goal line.

The save was phenomenal. But what was more impressive was the time at which he made it. There was less than four minutes on the clock in the final period, and his team was down 2-0. It was also painfully obvious that his team wasn’t going to be generating any goals at the other end of the rink. But he still made a play that required an intensity most goalies would reserve for an overtime playoff game.

Luongo is a guy that never gives up, and that’s what makes him one of the best in the league. It’s what makes him the best guy to have as your last line of defense, and the cornerstone of a playoff drive.


5 – Canucks goals in their last five road games

7 – shots for the Canucks captain Markus Naslund against Phoenix

16:12 – ice time for Brendan Morrison, the most he’s played since returning from injury

18 – Phoenix players, or all of their skaters, who had a shot on net

24 – shots in the first period for the Phoenix Coyotes

The Canucks offense in the first five minutes of the first period foreshadowed a night of great things to come from the Canucks big guns. But that didn’t materialize. By the end of sixty, there was still a big goose egg on the board.

The defense got off to a poor start, allowing a whopping 24 shots on net. In the third period, a bad giveaway in the neutral zone and then some bad defensive coverage off the ensuing rush allowed the Coyotes to seal the deal with their second goal.

Special teams were the difference in this game. Phoenix was able to break the scoreless tie with a power play goal in the second, while Vancouver wasn’t able to capitalize on their man advantage and went 0-for-5. What was worse was the lack of chances generated by the Canucks on their power play.
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