LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Cory Schneider is replacing Roberto Luongo in the Vancouver Canucks’ net for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault announced the goalie switch Sunday morning, several hours before the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks attempted to avoid an 0-3 series start against the eighth-seeded Kings.
Vigneault doesn’t blame the Canucks’ two 4-2 home losses on Luongo, who was mostly solid. He’s just hoping to wake up his roster in a series that could be close to slipping away from the defending Western Conference champions.
“Two great goaltenders,” Vigneault said. “I’ve used both of them all year long. Obviously being down 2-0 is not a reflection of the goaltending that we’ve had so far, but I feel that it’s time to maybe try and change the momentum a little bit, and this is one of the cards that we have.”
The move is undeniably risky for the Canucks, who made the Stanley Cup finals last season with Luongo in their net. Yet Luongo struggled in the finals after Vancouver took a 2-0 series lead, giving up 18 goals in the final five games and losing Game 7 to Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie Tim Thomas of Boston.
Vancouver had lost six of its last seven playoff games heading into Game 3 against the Kings, and Luongo was the starter in each.
Schneider’s five brief playoff appearances last year were his first NHL post-season experience, but the 26-year-old American is considered a budding star. He went 20-8-1 with a stellar 1.96 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage this season in 33 games.
After missing the post-season in each of his first six NHL seasons with the Islanders and Florida, Luongo has amassed a wealth of playoff experience in Vancouver, appearing in 61 games over the past six years. Luongo has been alternately brilliant and infuriating to Canucks fans during Vancouver’s last two playoff runs, finishing with a 2.56 GAA last season despite posting four shutouts.
Although Schneider is physically gifted, Luongo is among the NHL’s best netminders when playing the puck. Luongo also backstopped Canada to a gold medal in the 2010 Olympics in the Canucks’ home rink.
The Canucks travelled to California without top goal-scorer Daniel Sedin, who hasn’t played since incurring a concussion late in the regular season.
Vigneault also said he would scratch centre Andrew Ebbett and activate rookie Dale Weise for his playoff debut.