-- At 6-foot-3, 217 pounds and with long brown hair, it's hard to miss a Vancouver celebrity like Roberto Luongo
when he's out walking the streets. Yet instead of opting for the anonymity of a hotel room Friday afternoon, Luongo chose to take a pre-game walk along the city's seawall in an effort to clear his mind before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Luongo grabbed his hooded sweatshirt and headphones, buried his head and took a leisurely stroll just hours before the biggest game of his career -- one that has been filled with criticism and scrutiny. He said no one recognized him; if they had, he was so deep in thought with music blaring he wouldn't have heard them anyway.
One of the most recognizable faces of the Canucks went unnoticed by fans, some of whom cheered lustily watching on the big screen in Rogers Arena on Wednesday night after the goalie was yanked from Game 4. Luongo allowed four goals on 20 shots in Game 4 and 12 goals in all during the two games in Boston, both losses, that let the Bruins even the series at 2-2.
"I don't know if they have any seawalls in Boston," Luongo said after the Canucks' 1-0 victory, "but I'm going to look for that."
Perhaps after his 31-save shutout Friday night that has the Canucks one win from their first Stanley Cup, a pregame walk will become a ritual rather than an occasional occurrence.
The walk not only focused Luongo, it also instilled confidence in Alexandre Burrows
"After the pregame meal today, he told me he was going to go for a walk," Burrows said when asked when he thought Luongo had his confidence. "I looked at him -- 'Really? You're going to walk on the seawall and I see so many people outside.' He's like, 'Yeah, I'm going for a walk and take fresh air.' I knew right there he had confidence and knew nothing was going to faze him tonight."
In the past 16 months, Luongo has won a gold medal for Team Canada and was named a finalist for the 2011 Vezina Trophy. Yet whenever he goes through a rough patch -- like he did in Boston or during the conference quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks
-- it leads to speculation that the team should consider turning to Cory Schneider
While that talk is clearly happening everywhere else, it's certainly not a topic of conversation inside the Canucks' locker room.
"He's been through this since he came here," captain Henrik Sedin
said. "I think half of this room has been through this. We've grown up here together as a group. The only people we have to be accountable to is our teammates. I think that's helped him and I think that's helped us."
"The only thing I have to prove things to is myself, my teammates, and my family and friends," Luongo said. "That's who I play for. I play the game because I love it and I want to win the Stanley Cup, so that's the only motivation I need right now.
"I try to block everything else out. Sometimes it's hard to do in a city like this."
Knowing this, he still decided the best thing to do to achieve the goal of blocking those people out was to walk among them.
"Sometimes I need to clear my head and put things in prospective. Usually people don't bother me," Luongo said. "I don't know if they're talking or not because I have my headphones on and I can't hear anything. So it's nice for me to be able to do that and focus on what I need to do and don't have any distractions."
"After the pregame meal today, he told me he was going to go for a walk. I looked at him -- 'Really? You're going to walk on the seawall and I see so many people outside.' He's like, 'Yeah, I'm going for a walk and take fresh air.' I knew right there he had confidence and knew nothing was going to faze him tonight." -- Burrows when asked when he thought Luongo had his confidencee
Luongo's focus was on display during the first period, when the Bruins were awarded three consecutive power plays. He wasn't tested all that much while his team was shorthanded, but almost out of nowhere, Patrice Bergeron
was all alone in front with the puck after Luongo made the initial stop on Bergeron's deflection.
Bergeron snapped a quick shot, but Luongo flashed out his blocker and turned away what looked like a sure-fire goal.
After Maxim Lapierre
made it 1-0 early in the third period, Luongo maintained the focus that he harnessed in the afternoon. He turned aside a pair of deflections from Rich Peverley
and Mark Recchi
with less than four minutes to go, then stopped a couple of long blasts from defensemen Andrew Ference
and Johnny Boychuk
as the clock ticked down to nearly two minutes.
Following those two games in Boston, every Canuck said those losses shouldn't be placed solely on Luongo, that no one played well enough in front of him. So maybe it was a reward for Luongo that his teammates held the Bruins without a shot on goal for the final 2:29.
"In Boston a lot of the attention was put on Roberto, but it was the whole group," coach Alain Vigneault
said. "This is a team game and our whole group in Boston had two good first periods. For whatever reason, in the second period, we didn't play well. They took advantage of it and they took it to us.
"Everybody in our dressing room and around our organization knows Roberto's character and his competitiveness and how he prepares himself. He went out tonight and he played a great game for us."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo