There are a good number of people who have little but contempt for Roberto Luongo’s mental makeup. After a bad game, a mediocre game, or at random points in the playoffs, one is bound to run into comments about his ‘fragile’ mental state, his ‘easily shattered’ confidence and his simple inability to come through when the pressure is on.

Are those kinds of statements supported by the evidence?

My personal answer to the question above is ‘it depends.’

For starters, there is simply no doubt that Roberto Luongo has bad games at critical times. We might reference his performance in places during the Chicago series or the current Boston series or go back to the Chicago series of the last two seasons. That he has had some bad games during those runs is something that I think nobody would dispute.

Of course, what a paragraph like the one above leaves out is that many, many very good goaltenders have bad games during pressure situations. Let’s consider two examples, both recent French-Canadian goaltenders generally considered among the best all-time: Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.

Patrick Roy last played in the playoffs in 2002-03. In the first round against Minnesota, he allowed four goals in the opening game and finished with a save percentage 0.900 or lower in each of the final three contests, which allowed the Avalanche to blow a 3-1 series lead and lose to the Wild. The year before that, the Avalanche made it to the third round, and in Game Seven Roy allowed six goals on 16 shots as they were eliminated by Detroit. The series prior, he served up three stinkers to San Jose, allowing five goals on 22 shots in the opener, five goals on 39 shots in Game Three, and four goals on 26 shots in Game Five. In 1999-2000, Colorado lost to Dallas after Roy allowed 3+ goals in three of the series final four games, all while never facing even 30 shots. In 1998-99, Roy allowed 4+ goals in each of the final three games in a series loss to Dallas. In 1997-98, Roy and the Avalanche lost to a major underdog, the Edmonton Oilers, with Roy allowing four goals on 17 shots in the series’ deciding game. NHL game logs don’t go further back than that, but it’s safe to assume that Roy was a goal-allowing, series-choking loser occasionally had bad playoff games all the way back to his rookie days

All sorts of excuses have been made lately for the winning-est goaltender of all time, Martin Brodeur, when he struggles in a series. After all, he blew the Devils 2009-10 series against Philadelphia (1-4, 0.881 SV%, no really good games), allowed four goals in each of the final two games against Carolina the year before (blowing a 3-2 series lead), and allowed four goals in each of his final two games against the Rangers in 2007-08 (leading to elimination). Even before that, he struggled at times, however. In 2000-01, with the Devils in the Finals against Colorado, Brodeur allowed five goals in the first game, and after New Jersey had taken a 3-2 series lead allowed seven goals on just 40 shots over the final two games, both of which were losses. the year before he was great in the Finals, but nearly cost New Jersey their third-round series versus Philadelphia when he allowed 11 goals on just 72 shots over three straight games.

The point is not to denigrate the two guys above. The point is rather to illustrate that both goaltenders occasionally had lousy games and even lousy series, and that both came up flat in elimination games over the course of their illustrious careers. If Luongo had won a cup with his superb playoff performance in 2006-07, or played behind something other than a decent AHL team in Florida and Long Island, we might be inclined to grant him some leeway when he had a bad game, but he didn’t and so doesn’t get that sort of consideration.

The other point is that Luongo’s generally been excellent at rebounding from a pair of stinkers over the course of his career. I’ve pointed this out before, so I won’t rehash it at length, but suffice to say that as he can consistently come back from two bad losses with a brilliant performance, ‘mentally fragile’ is not the first term that would leap from my mouth.

Comments (7)

  1. Amen for that. Anyone who can come back from those two stinkers games 3 and 4 with a shut out isn’t particularly mentally fragile I wouldn’t say. You left out both Brodeur’s and LUongo’s Olympic work.

  2. Hey folks Luongo and Thomas are poise to make history I haven’t seen two goalies with mirror images of each other they will go down as the two best goalies ever to play the game check this out both have a chance at the Stanley Cup and the Vezina trophy / Imagine this these two goalies will be in the hall of fame some day as a fan i would like to remember them as great Goalies with two games left it’s about time that they call a truce becase they are the difference makers next time you meet on the ice come to centre ice and touch gloves and lets get it on. GOOD LUCK TO BOTH LOU & TIM.

  3. Thomas and Luongo will go down as the two best goalies to play the game?

    Kids … this is your brain on your drugs.

  4. Roy & Marty were PAST their primesin your examples! “Bobby Lu” however is in his prime. Keep pretending that he’s such a money goalie.

  5. @fgdsf He gives examples in the range of 1998-2001… how were either of them past prime?

  6. The momentum is shifted back to the Canucks. Well played defense by Roberto Loungo.

  7. Last night the Bruins won the Stanley Cup behind Tim Thomas’ sterling puckstopping. Yeah!

    Re LeBrongo’s mental state, seriously folks, I have been searching for a serious discussion of this guy’s mental state — like comments from psychotherapists, cause they would have a field day with the “not getting tires pumped by Thomas” comment. Doesn’t this guy have enough self confidence? He needs others to pump him up? Come on!! He is someone who needs serious psychotherapy, I am saying this objectively, cause geez, he had three good games in this series, though how much of that was the Bruins not playing to their potential in those games, we won’t know, and frankly we don’t care! I was wearing my “Making History” T-shirt under my button down — the one that has the subtitle “Biggest Comeback in MLB ALCS History,” referring to the 2004 ALCS.

    I do have to say that the blog entry is a sober attempt at saying yeah, even the best goalies get bad days. Thomas is a great goalie who was able to stay in the zone consistently in this series. It won’t last forever, but we are going to enjoy the fruits of that bounty now!

    I also think that the reset that Luongo made to stay deep in his crease was bad advice taken. Canucks defense was crumbling too. And the coach, whoa, big problems in not controlling team message and attitude.

    They will make adjustments, as will Luongo. People learn. Good luck to them.

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