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Canucks Watch: Could Luongo top Esposito's shutout mark?

It’s hard not to write about Roberto Luongo, even though those of you in Canucks country have probably been inundated with ink on the guy who entered last night’s action riding back-to-back-to-back shutouts and was half-a-period shy of breaking his own team record for consecutive scoreless minutes. Luongo had five shutouts in 14 games; no other NHL goalie had more than two. He had six shutouts in 73 games last season and his single-season best of seven is certain to fall. (Maybe by the end of the week.)

The bigger question should be, can Luongo take a run at Tony Esposito’s modern-day record of 15 shutouts? Esposito’s mark has stood for nearly 40 years, since his rookie season with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1969-70. Considering Luongo is on a pace for, oh, 27 shutouts or so, you have to like his chances. The Canucks have a solid, veteran defense corps (who knows, they may even stay healthy this year) and, more importantly, the team is tuned into the need to backcheck and give the club’s best player the support he needs.

Still, Esposito’s record has withstood challenges from the likes of Ken Dryden and Bernie Parent, Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur. Hasek’s 13 shutouts in 1997-98 is the closest any keeper has come; Brodeur hit a high-water mark of 12 in 2006-07 (but, given his three-month elbow leave, there won’t be a dozen doughnuts in Jersey this season).

Facing about 30 shots per game, Luongo’s goals-against average was 2.34 (right about where it’s been since the lockout), while his .920 save percentage is on par with recent seasons (and, as usual, it ranks among the league leaders). Really, if you look at it one way, Luongo is just having a “normal” season, doing what he does every year. It just turns out that, for Luongo, a “normal” season includes a spot near the top of most goaltending categories and a realistic run at the NHL’s shutout record.

This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.

Sam McCaig’s From The Point column appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at smccaig@thehockeynews.com.

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