It seems like everybody has an opinion of Roberto Luongo… and many of those opinions aren’t incredibly positive. We’ve all heard about how the fans cheered in Vancouver when he was pulled in Boston. We’ve read articles that list reasons to dislike him. We’ve watched him be yanked from the net twice in Boston and be left in for eight goals in a third game. We seen Cory Schneider start game six in Chicago. Now Bodog sports betting has odds listed on whether or not Luongo is “pulled and replaced by another goaltender at any point during the game?”
They don’t have the same bet listed for Tim Thomas.
That’s not really that surprising. While Luongo is jeered and booed and hated by many, Tomas is almost universally liked and respected.
Thomas seems to be the consensus pick to win the Conn Smythe Trophy regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game. For Thomas, the articles you read are about how he’s the only player on both teams who deserves to win the Cup.
Puck Daddy called Tim Thomas “the antithesis of Roberto Luongo” and it’s true, not just in their actions but how they’re perceived.
But winning the Stanley Cup can change everyone’s perceptions.
Marc-Andre Fleury had many of the same insults thrown at him that Roberto Luongo is currently facing. Many questioned whether or not he should actually be considered an elite goaltender. His skills and – more importantly – his mental toughness was called into questions many times.
Fleury was pulled in game five of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final after allowing 5 goals in a Detroit 5-0 blowout. That game just added to the opinion that Fleury couldn’t win when it really counted. In the 2004 World Junior Championship he famously banked the puck off of his own teammate and into the net for the game-winning goal. In 2008, he tripped and fell down while running onto the ice before the first game of the Stanley Cup Final. He then sat on the puck and pushed it into his own net in game six… allowing a goal that proved to be the Cup-winner.
Then he won the 2009 Stanley Cup with a sprawling save in the dying seconds.
Yes, Fleury still has his critics today, but they are much quieter than ever before. He’s no longer considered a goaltender that “can’t win the big game.” That’s all because of his performance in game seven in 2009.
Luongo has that same opportunity tonight. If Luongo can backstop his team to a Stanley Cup victory in game seven , he’ll go down in history as the goaltender that won the Canucks’ first Stanley Cup. Years from now no one will remember his comments about Tim Thomas or the fact that he was pulled in Boston. They’ll remember that he won Olympic gold in 2010 and a Stanley Cup in 2011. They’ll remember his two shutouts in this round much more often than the two times he watched Cory Schneider take his place between the pipes.
He has an opportunity to cement his own legacy tonight. He has a chance to rewrite the narrative that has been written about him.
That’s what game sevens do. It sounds like cliché marketing, but heroes are truly born in these moments. Can Luongo be the hero tonight?