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Super Saviour

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
It's hard to imagine Roberto Luongo elevating his game to new heights - but after helping the Canucks clinch a playoff berth on Tuesday night, the 44 game winner and potential Hart Trophy candidate was deflecting criticism of his lack of post-season experience and instilling a little fear into potential first round opponents by claiming his game still has another gear.

"I haven't played in a playoff game in the NHL but I have in juniors and the AHL and obviously I've been part of Team Canada which has been a lot of high pressure situations," said Luongo about his first foray into the NHL post season.

"For me, I think it's going to be exciting. We've been playing a lot of playoff type games down the stretch here and I feel that when those types of games come around, they're fun games to play in and my game elevates even more."

Roberto's pressure packed resume includes carrying the Canadian World Junior team to the gold medal game, leading two different QMJHL squads to the Memorial Cup and also winning back to back gold medals with Canada at the World Championships.

That's some pretty good experience to fall back on.

Most players who've had the privilege to wear the Canadian sweater have said the pressure and honor to compete for their country on the world stage is like none other because the weight of an entire nation is on their shoulders.

Starting in a couple weeks - the temptation for Canucks fans in this city, province and way beyond might be to firmly place the Canucks playoff aspirations on the shoulders of the man who wears the number 1 jersey. It'll be an easy thing to do considering some of the miraculous saves and first star performances Luongo has turned in this year.

But Roberto sees the clubs success differently. He sounded like a Super Bowl MVP quarterback doling out accolades to his offensive linemen when he spoke about the guys who patrol the Canucks defensive zone.

"The defense is really one of the more underrated in the NHL - they're really solid," said Luongo. "The guys that were here last year like Sami Salo and Mattias Ohlund are great d-men. Then I think we added a really big piece of the puzzle in Willie Mitchell who is really great on the PK and is a really defensive minded guy.

"Then we've got guys who have stepped up like Kevin Bieksa and Lukas Krajicek has been playing really well. I can't say enough about them - they've been terrific all year for me and they've really helped me."

"It takes 20 guys on a team to make a successful team and make the playoffs and we've been playing great all season as a unit," Luongo said about his teammates. "Obviously I did not do this myself. Everybody in that locker room has an important role on this team and we did it together."

Luongo's name has been bandied about in recent weeks as one of the three players who might be nominated for the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player to his team. The other two players are goaltending nemesis Martin Brodeur and sophomore sensation Sidney Crosby.

Earlier this week, Brodeur wrote in his weekly column that if he couldn't vote for himself he'd choose Sid the Kid to take the honors. Luongo agreed.

There's a lot of good candidates out there," said Luongo. "I think I might have to go with the same choice as Marty. Sid is in the lead in scoring right now and they were not a team that was in the playoffs last year so I think he's probably one of the best candidates to choose."

Well Roberto, if helping to lead a team back into the post-season is part of the criteria for winning the Hart - I definitely like your chances.

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