Somehow Roberto Luongo is actually flying under the radar.
This is a guy who was picked fourth overall by the Islanders in 1997 and was expected to rival Martin Brodeur’s greatness from Day 1. This is a guy who was traded to Florida where he played five playoff-less seasons, but maintained the same career projections throughout. This is a guy who has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy twice and Hart Trophy once. This is a guy who was traded to Vancouver, named captain for two seasons and was supposed to put them over the top. This is a guy who was in net when Canada won gold on home soil in 2010.
Yet this is a guy who, at age 31, has yet to carry an NHL team anywhere and hasn’t accomplished any of the great individual feats anticipated from him 14 years ago.
So how is Luongo – second in wins with 27, fifth in GAA with a 2.24 mark and third in save percentage at .926 – flying under the radar this season?
Vancouver’s rise from pretty good team to serious contender has coincided more with Henrik and Daniel Sedin’s emergence as MVP caliber players, Ryan Kesler’s coming together as an all-world, two-way threat and key players developing such as Alex Elder than with anything Luongo has done.
Since arriving on Canada’s West Coast in 2006, Luongo’s numbers have actually been fairly consistent with the exception of last season when his GAA jumped and SP dropped. That was also the most successful regular season in Canucks history – go figure.
And when the Canucks reached the second round against the Chicago Blackhawks for the second year in a row it was Luongo again being mostly blamed for the shortfall because of blowup games and the sense the Hawks – and especially Dustin Byfuglien – had got in his head. And while his numbers in the past two post-seasons haven’t been great, everyone seems to forget the 1.77 GAA and .941 SP he posted in the 2006-07 playoffs when the team was less developed – despite his stellar play, Luongo’s record was only 5-7.
Now that everything seems to be coming together in Vancouver – with magnificent players directing the top two lines, key depth additions making waves on the third and fourth lines and the defense pairing off better than ever – Luongo has become the forgotten man. He’s having the best season of a career that was supposed to be – and, for the most part, is – at least among the all-time greatest.
If the season ended today, Luongo would have to be in the running for the Vezina Trophy. He may not win because of Tim Thomas’ out-of-this-world performance, but that can’t take away from the great year ‘Lou’ is enjoying.
And maybe that’s what he needed. He’s been the talk of the town every year wherever he’s gone because of the expectations that were handed to him as an 18-year-old – perhaps for him to achieve greatness all he needed was someone to take on at least part of the spotlight in his place.
Whatever the case, Luongo is having the most fantastic season no one is talking about in the NHL. But if he falters in the post-season with a bad game or two and the Canucks don’t at least come out of the West, suddenly all eyes will be back on goalie.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.