For years, seeing Roberto Luongo between the pipes on opening night for the Vancouver Canucks was expected. This year, it was unexpected and, frankly, a sign that something had gone disastrous at home against the Anaheim Ducks.
Which it did: Cory Schneider, handed the starting goaltender’s job over Luongo this season, allowed five goals on 14 shots to the Ducks in what would be a 7-3 humbling by the road team. He surrendered three goals on four shots in the second period; at 6:37 of the period, he went to the pine and Luongo returned to the crease.
“It was unacceptable to play that way and to put my team in that situation and not even give them a chance to win," Schneider said after the game. "I’m not going to think too long about this one and get ready for my next opportunity. You never expect to have it go this way, but felt just a half-second off and at this level that’s all it takes.
"I’ll put my head down, work my butt off and fix any mistakes I made."
Luongo received a rather positive response when he stepped onto the ice with more than 13 minutes to go in the second period. "It was, I don't even know how to describe it — it's part of the game, it was a fun moment," he said of the reception. "I wasn't really expected to go in. … Obviously I was trying to be as ready as I could be."
The good news? Regression! Cory Schneider was woeful on Saturday but he remains a solid NHL goaltender, and he'll bounce back. Roberto Luongo was better than Schneider was, I guess, but he'll also have better performances than what he showed in relief of Schneider on Saturday night. Saturday's game was just a strange one. If you look beyond the permissive defensive coverage, the complete lack of team speed and the inability to hit anyone in stride with a pass: you'll see a club that looked like they were playing their first preseason game. Which makes sense since that's pretty much exactly what this was.
This is, of course, the situation GM Mike Gillis has put his team in. One terrible game, and there’s already talk about whether Schneider should start Sunday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers (of course he should). This isn’t Eddie Lack leaving the bench to supplant him; this is Roberto Luongo, the once (and future?) starter for the Canucks. The guy staring over the shoulder of the guy who usurped him, waiting for him to falter – just like he did with Marty Brodeur as a Canadian Olympian in 2010, on Vancouver ice.
Harrison Mooney, incidentally, thinks Luongo should get the start:
There will be a lot of talk about who should start Sunday night versus Edmonton, but really, there shouldn’t be any. Alain Vigneault had every intention of starting Roberto Luongo, his backup, in the second night of a back-to-back, and I think he still should. Why deviate from the plan over one game, let alone the first one? Of course, by sticking to the plan, people will interpret it as some sort of slight against Schneider, which makes no sense since it was the plan all along, but, well, this whole thing is so stupid. It won’t matter in the slightest who the Canucks start tomorrow if their defence continues to play this poorly, especially against a skilled Oilers core that’s been skating together in Oklahoma for months — both guys will still get some time in the goal.
But this is, we think, what Mike Gillis wants. To push Schneider with the specter of Luongo, no matter how uncomfortable the “goalie controversy” narrative gets in the media. And, perhaps, to have an all-star insurance policy in case Schneider can’t get on track quickly, at least for this 48-game season.