-- Cory Schneider
and Roberto Luongo
stripped off their goaltending equipment side by side in the Canucks locker room after practice Saturday as a large circle of media gathered around them.
It wasn't at all unusual, except this time the crowd formed around Schneider, while Luongo was granted a free path towards the showers.
There is a growing sense the Canucks will do the same in Game 3 on Sunday night.
Goalie - VAN
GAA: - | Sv%: -
Down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings
in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
admitted after practice that he had a decision to make between the pipes. Actually, he'd already made it, but had yet to tell his own goalies, so he wasn't about to share it with the rest of the world.
It won't come as a surprise if it involves a switch, even if Luongo singlehandedly kept the Canucks in Game 1, and made several more big saves in Game 2.
"Maybe give them a new look, shake up the team … I don't know," Schneider said when asked why he might play in L.A., while insisting he didn't know if he would.
There's another reason: Schneider can flat out play goal.
The 26-year-old may be the No.2 goaltender in Vancouver, but he was also the second-best goaltender in the entire NHL when it came to save percentage during the regular season, posting a .937 that trailed only Brian Elliott
in St. Louis. And Schneider's 1.96 goals-against average was third in the League, just .01 behind the Kings starter and Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick
The only thing missing on Schneider's short NHL resume is playoff success.
He did get a surprise – many would say shocking – start in the first round last season against the rival Blackhawks, playing Game 6 in a hostile Chicago environment after the Canucks blew a 3-0 series lead. But the rookie turned two puck-handling gaffes into goals, and was forced to leave early after cramping up badly while getting beat on a penalty shot that tied the game.
Luongo went back in for Game 7, backstopped a 2-1 overtime victory and led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final before struggling in Boston, getting pulled in two of three road games.
Perhaps because of that, the Canucks made sure to get Schneider more and tougher starts this season, including a big Cup rematch victory in Boston and another tough win in Chicago. And they were careful to keep the sophomore stopper fresh down the stretch, splitting time with -- and for the most part outplaying -- Luongo over the final six weeks of the regular season.
"I would feel pretty comfortable," Schneider said of starting Game 3. "I played in so many games this year and I had a taste of it last year, so I know what to expect. No real surprise for me, just try to play the way I played all year."
Expect, perhaps, while handling the puck.
Schneider's stickhandling mistakes didn't end in the Chicago series, and could become an issue against a strong Kings' forecheck Luongo has helped temper with smart, safe plays.
"I have to make smart decisions and put it in position where they are better off than if I hadn't played the puck," Schneider said. "Not try to get too fancy, but just make plays that will put us in position to get out of the zone."
If he plays, it will be Schneider's first game against Los Angeles. And while Luongo had success in the regular season – he had a .944 save percentage in four starts against the Kings – it could be an advantage for the Canucks.
"It can help sometimes if a team doesn't know much about you," Schneider said.
As for Luongo, he said he's seeing the puck well, feels good about the way he's playing, and has always enjoyed playing in the well-lit Staples Center. Despite a lot of talk from teammates about hanging him out to dry with point-blank chances, and poor penalty killing, though, Luongo said he needs to be better.
"You want to come up with the big save when it's needed," Luongo said.
Some might argue he already has made a handful against the Kings. But the question now is whether or not he'll get a chance to make any more.