Florida Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo turned 37 on Tuesday, but don’t go thinking that another year older means the veteran netminder is showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, this season has statistically been one of his best of the past five years and he’s one of the driving forces on a Panthers team that’s post-season bound for the first time in four campaigns.
When it comes to celebrating his birthday, though, Luongo got the chance to enjoy 37 by watching from the bench as the Panthers downed the Maple Leafs Monday in Toronto. But Tuesday night, Luongo got back in net and he did his best to prove to Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher that age is just a number. The save was an important one, too.
Late in the second frame, Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty found space behind the Panthers defense and cut in on a partial breakaway while fighting off a check from Florida blueliner Aaron Ekblad. With Pacioretty cutting in and Luongo tracking the puck across the front of the net, the Montreal pivot turned and laid a pass on the stick of Gallagher. At the moment the puck was released, it looked like a sure goal, but Luongo darted across the crease and took what would have been the go-ahead goal from Gallagher:
Luongo’s victory Tuesday gives him 34 on the season, and with one more win in either of the Panthers’ final two games this season, Luongo will have reached the 35-win mark for the sixth time in his career. However, if Luongo plays the final two games of the campaign for the Panthers and wins both, he’ll move into a tie with Jacques Plante for the sixth-most wins in NHL history at 437.
It can’t be overlooked just how great Luongo’s season has been for a goaltender his age, either. He currently ranks in the top 10 among qualifying goaltenders in wins, save percentage and shutouts, and he’s barely outside the top 10 in terms of goals-against average, too. There are only a handful of goaltenders in NHL history who have ever put up similar numbers to Luongo’s .922 SP and 2.35 GAA over the age of 35, and that list includes a few of the all-time greatest goaltenders, such as Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour.
Luongo still has six seasons remaining on his contract, and while it seems unlikely that he maintains this level of play past the age of 40, he’s proving this season that we shouldn’t start doubting him until he gives us a reason to.