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2018-19 Season Rewind: Roberto Luongo

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2018-19 Season Rewind: Luongo

2018-19 Season Rewind: Roberto Luongo

Saves and achievements from Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo during the 2018-19 season

  • 02:15 •

Roberto Luongo overcame injuries to finish his 19th NHL season on a high note.

Met with adversity right out of the gate, the 40-year-old veteran goaltender was held out of the lineup for almost the entire first month of the 2018-19 campaign after sustaining a lower-body injury midway through the second period of the Florida Panthers' opener in Tampa on Oct. 6.

Upon returning, however, he appeared sharp as ever, leading the team to four straight victories behind a .951 save percentage. Unfortunately, a series of up-and-down performances followed that impressive stretch, as injuries and slumps kept him from settling into any sort of a rhythm.

Of course, given his Hall of Fame credentials, it was only a matter of time before he broke out.

From Jan. 18 until Game 82, Luongo backstopped Florida to at least one point in 14 of 19 decisions, registering a 10-5-4 record with a .905 save percentage during that solid stretch. Finishing on an upswing, he went 4-1-1 with a .908 save percentage over his final six starts.

In the end, Luongo finished with an 18-16-5 record, 3.12 goals-against average, .899 save percentage and one shutout.

"It was a tough season, first and foremost, because we didn't make the playoffs," Luongo said after April's locker cleanout at BB&T Center. "Obviously, that's disappointing. I think, for myself, I had a bit of a tough stretch in the middle. I lost confidence and I was doubting myself a little bit if I could still do this, and that's on me. I was really disappointed that I went through that. But after I got over that hump, I think the last few months of the season I played well. I was having fun. I was happy with the way I responded and how I was playing in games down the stretch."

Luongo's season will also be remembered as an historic one.

In stopping 36 of 39 shots in a 4-3 overtime win in Colorado on Feb. 25, he was credited with the 485th victory of his NHL career, breaking a tie with Ed Belfour for third place on the league's all-time goaltending wins list. Martin Brodeur holds the all-time record, owning 691 career wins.

When asked about his massive milestone post-game, Luongo deflected the praise aimed in his direction like a slap shot - a move he's become accustomed to doing as he topples record after record at this stage in his career - instead choosing to focus on the team rather than himself.

"I'm a lot happier that we got the two points," Luongo told reporters after his memorable night in the mountains. "It's a big road win for our club against a team that's one of the good teams, and they'd won four in a row. It was a gutsy effort from our club in a road game in a tough building."

A few weeks prior to that historic win, Luongo made headlines for yet another milestone. Making a relief appearance in a 5-2 loss against Tampa on Feb. 10, he officially appeared in his 1,030th game of his career, giving him the second-most games ever played by a goaltender in the NHL.

How many games does he have left? That remains to be seen.

With a potential 20th NHL season on the horizon, Luongo continues to reaffirm that his passion for the game and dedication to his craft has never been stronger. And with the recent arrival of new head coach Joel Quenneville - who led Chicago to championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015 -- his quest and prospects for capturing an elusive Stanley Cup also received a huge boost.

"Everybody's ultimate goal is to win a Cup, so it's really a matter of taking it one step at a time right now," Luongo said. "We have to make sure once training camp rolls around next year that the pieces that are set here in place are ready to take that next step. That's where it goes, and we move on from there. Like I said before, a presence like Q [Quenneville], who has won Cups, has a big voice and knows what it takes to win is a big step for our club."

If needed, Luongo said he's even open to serving as the team's backup next season.

"I think the days of playing 50-60 games a year are a little bit behind me," he said. "Those are tough. I'd still love to do it, but the recovery aspect of it is a bit tougher to play three to four games a week is a lot to ask sometimes. I've been a backup before in Vancouver and I understand the role. If I were to play 20 or 30 games a year under the right circumstances, yeah, that would be great.

"I just want to be part of a team that has a chance to win and be part of the playoffs and help in any way that I can. That's never really been a problem for me as far as what my decision is concerned. It's something I know I'm very capable of doing because I've done it before and I know what type of role that is and it's not a role where you're the backup, but you want to take over the starting job. I understand what that role is and that would be something that I'm comfortable with."

Looking ahead, Luongo's future should become clearer as the offseason rolls on.

"This is my home," said Luongo, who has lived in Parkland for more than a decade. "I love this organization and I love everybody in management. I have a lot of respect for everybody, so we'll just have a talk and see what's best for me and what's best for the team moving forward."

COOL STAT

It's no secret that Luongo owns the franchise's all-time wins record.

The margin by which he leads his competition, however, is staggering.

With 230 wins as a member of the Panthers, Luongo has amassed more victories with Florida than the next two highest names on the list - John Vanbiesbrouck (106) and Tomas Vokoun (101) combined. Overall, 28.2 percent of all victories in Florida's history belong to Luongo.

Luongo also paces the franchise in shutouts (38) and saves (16,068).

BEST GAME

After missing five games with a lower-body injury, Luongo returned to the ice in epic fashion.

Turning aside all 33 shots that came his way -- including 11 from high-danger areas, according to NaturalStatTrick.com -- Luongo picked up his first shutout of the season and earned first-star honors in leading the Panthers to a 5-0 win over division-rival Boston on Dec. 4 at BB&T Center.

"The boys did a great job," Luongo said after the game, crediting the defense. "There wasn't a lot of breakdowns, odd-man rushes, stuff like that. It really helps my game when we play like that defensively. It also translates into offense for our club. I'll take more of those, hopefully." 

Video: BOS@FLA: Luongo lifts Panthers in return with shutout

In recording the 77th shutout of his career, Luongo also surpassed both Tony Esposito and Ed Belfour to claim sole possession of ninth place on the NHL's all-time shutout list.

SAVE OF THE YEAR

Ty Rattie would like to report a robbery.

With Edmonton buzzing in the first period of a Nov. 8 matchup in Sunrise, Luongo quickly tilted the momentum back in Florida's favor when he denied Rattie on the doorstep with a jaw-dropping glove save to keep the game scoreless and halt Edmonton's premature celebration.

Luongo went on to stop 26 of 27 shots to lead the Panthers to a 4-1 win.

Video: EDM@FLA: Luongo stretches for incredible glove save

"Right away tonight I felt that I was reading the plays well," Luongo said after the game. "A couple backdoors where I was able to see the guy out of the corner of my eye, so I was able to react when the pass went across. After that, the boys took over and we played a really good game."

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