Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault hasn’t confirmed Cory Schneider will be his team’s starting goaltender for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarter-Final Sunday at Rogers Arena, buuuuuuuut he kind of has.
Asked post-practice Friday if Schneider will tend the twine for Game 5, Vigneault simply chuckled before saying “What a question…come on…”
We’ll assume Schneider gets the call, his third consecutive start for the Canucks.
This streak of Schneider will spell the end for Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, according to every media outlet out there, and although Luongo is admittedly disappointed he isn’t starting these days, he’s taking it like a champ.
Hockey is a wild game and things can change in a heartbeat. If they do, Luongo will be ready.
Think back to Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarter-Final last season when Schneider started for the Canucks in Chicago against the Blackhawks. That was apparently the last we’d ever see of Luongo, but after Schneider cramped up and was forced to leave the game, Luongo was back in business.
Luongo closed out last year’s playoffs starting 18 of Vancouver’s final 19 games.
Learning from that, neither goaltender is looking beyond Game 5.
“It’s not a position we want to be in, but we are,” said Schneider. “We’ve got one under our belt, we’ve got to make it two, we’ve got momentum on our side and now we’re got to come out and play a real strong game at home and hopefully put the pressure on them.”
Schneider is relishing being the starter right now and it’s tough to not be excited for the 26-year-old, who has worked as hard as anyone on the team since coming to Vancouver. He’s now in a position to help lead the Canucks to the most epic comeback in franchise history and part of the reason he’s so comfortable in that role is because of the support he’s receiving from Luongo.
“He’s always been great, he’s been great to me and great to the team, he’s handled this extremely well, he hasn’t said a word and he’s been nothing but a true professional and the great guy that he is,” said Schneider.
The media scrum surrounding Luongo Friday was the largest of the playoffs so far, but it was a disappointment for any media hoping he’d play up the fabricated goalie controversy.
He’s a team player, always has been and always will be, and he isn’t putting himself first right now, when it matters most. Luongo has Schneider’s back, knowing full well change can occur at any time.
“I just try to handle it as I go, I always try to stay in the moment and live day-by-day, I don’t like too think too far ahead of behind, things change quickly in this league, so right now I’m just focused on Game 5 and that’s where my attention needs to be,” said Luongo, who praised Schneider’s play.
“Cory has worked extremely hard since he’s been up, he deserves what he’s getting, he’s going to be a top-notch goalie in this league for a long time and hopefully we can get the job done.”
Kevin Bieksa did not practice with the Canucks Friday, but he was spotted at Rogers Arena. No need to fret, the defenceman was given a maintenance day with there being a good chunk of time between games.
Other than Bieksa, all the regulars were on the ice at UBC; Zack Kassian and seven others skated pre-practice and while Aaron Rome and Dale Weise joined the Canucks for both skates, Kassian was absent for main practice. Coach Vigneault said to not read anything into this.
David Booth remained on Vancouver’s top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin in practice and Vigneault liked the looks of that trio from Game 4. One new combination had Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler with Maxim Lapierre on a line dubbed the Three Mouthketeers by writer Cam Cole.
Vigneault said that’ll be a difficult line to play against, but earplugs will not be needed.
”If you looked at last game we played whistle to whistle, there wasn’t a comment made by any of our players, we were just playing,” he said. “We don’t have a choice, our backs are up against the wall and we’ve got to play hockey and we’ve got to play hockey from whistle-to-whistle and play it the right way. No need for earplugs."
If the three remain together for Sunday, Vigneault is expecting big things.
”I think that line should bring a lot of energy and you’ve got guys there that have got a decent skill set and a lot of speed. Hopefully if we do decide to go that route, those are three guys that really want to win bad and they’re willing to do whatever it takes and if we do decide to take that route, we’re expecting real good things from them.”
The line juggling that has Lapierre on the second line has Mason Raymond on the fourth line and he’ll remain there until Vigneault sees more from the speedy forward.
Raymond hasn’t been himself of late and Vigneualt said the opportunities he is afforded will reflect that.
”I know the young man is trying hard, but obviously the way he’s playing right now he doesn’t deserve to be playing on one of the top three lines,” said Vigneault. “We expect more from him, I’m sure he expects more from himself and for now he’s going to play on a different line and when he goes on the ice, we expect him to give 100 per cent and be ready.”
Quote of the day
No official announcement has been made as to what time Game 5 will be played Sunday, and that has a lot of reporters worried.
It couldn’t bother Henrik Sedin less.
”If I don’t know Sunday by noon, I’ll be a little bit worried about it. Right now I don’t care.”