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Examining the Vancouver Canucks goaltenders

by Bill Meltzer / NHL.com

 
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Who's No. 1?

The only question here is whether Roberto Luongo is the No. 1 goaltender in the entire NHL. There are many who would argue that the keeper is coming off an even better season than Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur had a year ago.

Like Brodeur, Luongo is a true iron man of a goaltender. Last season, Luongo played an extraordinary 5,337 minutes between the regular season and the playoffs. Last season marked the third consecutive season that the former Florida Panthers keeper surpassed 4,000 regular season minutes.

What’s more, Luongo got better and better the more he played. At Christmas last year, his goals against average (2.52 GAA) and save percentage (.905) were strictly average. It was in the second half where he truly shined. By the end of the regular season, he’d trimmed his goals against to 2.29 and save percentage to .921. Not coincidentally, the Canucks went 32-8-6 over the rest of the schedule to win the Northwest division and earn the third seed in the Western Conference. In the playoffs, Luongo elevated his game even further, cranking up an extraordinary 1.77 GAA and .941 save percentage.

Backup plan

Last season, Luongo played 76 regular-season games and started all 12 playoff games. Backup Dany Sabourin (now with Pittsburgh) got into only nine regular-season games, plus two brief playoff appearances. While the 28-year-old Luongo is eminently capable of handling a similar workload this year, he won’t have to.

Free-agent addition Curtis Sanford, 28, played 1,492 minutes for the St. Louis Blues last season. While his 2006-07 stats (3.18 GAA, .888 save percentage) were nothing spectacular, Sanford is a competent keeper who played very well for the Blues during a trying 2005-06 season for the club. Previously, he was a top American Hockey League keeper prior to being promoted to the NHL.

Sanford (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) is considerably smaller in net than Luongo, and the scouting report on him is to shoot high. He moves well laterally and, when he’s on top of his game, plays the angles well.

In the Wings

Cory Schneider -- The Canucks’ first round pick (26th overall) in 2004. …Signed an entry-level contract with the club on July 3. … He will compete for the starting job with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. ... Schneider was a dominant college hockey goalie at Boston College. ... Posted a 2.15 GAA, .925 save percentage and six shutouts in 2006-07.

Julien Ellis-Plante -- The Canucks’ sixth-round pick (189th overall) in 2004. ... Split the 2006-07 season between the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (8 GP, 3.37 GAA, .884 save percentage) and the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings (37 GP, 3.20 GAA, .912 save percentage, 1 shutout).

Roberto Luongo
New backup goaltender Curtis Sanford on Roberto Luongo (above) and Sanford's role on the team for the 2007-08 season to the Vancouver Sun (Sept. 6, 2007):

"Obviously Roberto plays a lot and everybody knows that. I'm here to try and do my part and however many games I play, that's totally up to the coaching staff.  It will be a tough adjustment, but it will be up to me to be ready for those games when they come."                  
FAST FACTS

1. TRoberto Luongo’s 76 starts and 4,490 regular season minutes played and 47 wins shattered the single-season franchise records previous held by Kirk McLean.

Luongo
2. Last season, Luongo became the 20th goaltender in NHL history to notch 40 victories in a single season.

3. Luongo’s five shutouts tied him for sixth in the NHL last season – with eight other goaltenders.


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