Ken Baker chooses Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks:
It's tempting to hop on the bashing bandwagon and cite the numerous reasons why Roberto Luongo
will live down to the low expectations of his haters -- and there are many. It would be easy to proclaim that the regular-season stud once again will hit the Stanley Cup Playoffs and swiftly earn the nickname "Lose-ongo."
But I am not going to abandon Luongo. Did he have a shaky playoffs last year? Yes, but the Hawks did end up winning it all. Has his regular-season performance vastly outdone his postseason play? Yes, but his team has also collapsed around him. Is his 12-year, $64 million contract weighing him down? OK, probably, yeah.
But this first series in the postseason will be different for Luongo.
Here's why: The team in front of him is quite possibly the best to come out of the West since the Gretzky-era Oilers. With the kind of offensive stars he has in front of him, and the tight defense boxing out around him; if all Luongo does is make the saves he's supposed to make, they will take the series. Simple as that.
If anything, the All-Star and gold medal-winning Luongo has proved to be more than capable of playing the safe, shutdown role in the goal. His big body fills the net, he plays the angles precisely, he makes good decisions, makes the occasional "big" save, and he controls his rebounds. Rather than try too hard to prove he deserved to be the highest-paid goalie in the League, Luongo has been finding success by keeping it simple.
This blue-collar approach is what Luongo has channeled all season long and was more than adequate enough to lead the Canucks to allowing the fewest goals in the League.
The Blackhawks may have eliminated the Canucks the past two playoffs. But this is a different, less-potent team of Hawks. This is a different, more-potent Canucks. Most important, this is a different Luongo. And his proving ground will be the same ice on which he won the Olympic gold for Canada. If, like a lot of haters, you bet against him, I wouldn't bet the farm.