|CORY SCHNEIDER/ROBERTO LUONGO |
The 2013 season was supposed to mark the changing of the guard for the Canucks between the pipes but, at least at the start of this series, what's old may be new. With Cory Schneider nursing an undisclosed injury to close out the regular season, Roberto Luongo could be the starter when the series opens on Wednesday and possibly longer.
Luongo is certainly the most experienced netminder in terms of games played out of all goaltenders in this series. He comes into this post-season with 61 career playoff games and has led the Canucks past the opening round in four of five playoff runs. He struggled in his short playoff stint last season, however, allowing seven goals on 64 shots over two games before being replaced permanently in that series.
If, and when, Schneider gets back to full health, his first game in this series would be just his fourth career NHL playoff start and his ninth playoff appearance overall. Schneider had a baptism-by-fire during last season's playoffs when he was asked to take over from Luongo with the Canucks down 0-2 in their series against the Kings but played better than anyone could have asked for. Despite only managing to post a 1-2 record in his brief playoff run, Schneider allowed just four goals on 101 shots over the three games for a 1.31 GAA and a .960 save percentage.
|ANTTI NIEMI |
Barring some sort of catastrophic injury that forces him out of the series, the Sharks will be live and die by the goaltending of Antti Niemi. San Jose has every reason to be confident in their netminder heading into this series.
The 31-year-old Finn has put up Vezina Trophy-worthy numbers this season recording a league-leading 24 victories (tied with the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist and the Wild's Niklas Backstrom) to go with a 2.16 GAA, and a .924 save percentage to go with four shutouts. His numbers against the Canucks this season are also spectacular. He's a perfect 3-0 versus Vancouver with a 1.63 GAA and .943 save percentage.
As far as playoff seasoning goes, he also has an edge compared to the Canucks' netminders particularly if Vancouver runs with Cory Schneider in this series. As a starter, Niemi has been to two Conference Finals and won a Stanley Cup in 2010. In 45 career playoff appearances, Niemi has a 25-19 record with a 2.84 GAA and a .905 save percentage with two shutouts.