He’s been called the Canucks’ backbone. Their anchor. The foundation on which the team is built. Last year, the Vancouver Sun’s Iain MacIntyre crowned him their “saviour.”
And tonight, Roberto Luongo
did nothing more than what those people expected him to do: save everything that comes at him. The Flames tried 13 times, and couldn’t get a single shot past the all-star netminder. But that came as no surprise. It was just another day at the office for Luongo.
Well, maybe a half-day at the office. 11:09 into the second period, Luongo’s work was done. It was out with the old, and in with the new. It was time to turn it over to the Canucks’ top goaltending prospect Cory Schneider
, who promptly followed Luongo’s act, completed the shutout, and even tallied an assist.
It couldn’t have been that easy. Schneider was in his first NHL game, replacing one of the world’s best in Luongo – and his competition at the other end of the ice was nearly as good. “With him [Luongo] and Kiprusoff out there, they put on a clinic, and I just hoped I didn’t embarrass myself,” said Schneider. “They’re both tremendous goalies, and I would hope to be as good as them someday.”
In just under 30 minutes of play, Schneider only saw eight shots from the Flames, but still had to survive five power plays, including a five-on-three. “The penalty killers did a great job in clearing rebounds and blocking shots, making my life easy,” said Schneider.
Alain Vigneault knew it wasn’t the most difficult outing, but was impressed with the new goalie’s play. “He didn’t get a lot of work, but he came in when we were killing a penalty five-on-four and then five-on-three, and he had a couple saves to make, and he made them. It’s not easy coming into a game that is 0-0, but I thought he did a good job when he needed to make those saves.”
There have been high hopes for Schneider since the Canucks drafted him in the first round of 2004 (26th overall). And so far, he’s come up through the system to exceed those expectations. Seeing his composure tonight seems to confirm he’s on the track to a bright future in the NHL.
“It didn’t seem as though he was nervous at all tonight,” said Luongo. “You can tell that he’s going to be an elite goaltender in this league.”
But as promising as his future sounds, Schneider is expected to be the starter for the Manitoba Moose this year. So Canucks fans might not be seeing too much more of him, save for a few more pre-season outings. Of course, even if he doesn’t see any NHL action this year, it’s still good to have him in the bank.
Luongo may be our “saviour,” but there’s always the fear that his contract won’t be resurrected when it runs out in three years. Perhaps it’s best not to think about that scenario. But if his goaltending torch does have to be passed someday, Cory Schneider
looks like a good man to take it.