Published November 20, 2014
The inexplicable woes for the Vancouver Canucks' franchise goaltender at TD Garden continued in epic fashion Monday night during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Luongo allowed three goals on eight shots and was pulled after just 8:35 as the Bruins rolled to a 5-2 victory that forced a decisive Game 7 at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night.
It was the shortest start of Luongo's career that wasn't the result of an injury.
In three games in Boston, Luongo has an unbelievable 8.05 goals-against average and .773 save percentage. He's allowed 15 goals on 66 shots and was about as beatable as he's been in this series Monday with the Canucks on the verge of winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
Yet there's no doubt in coach Alain Vigneault's mind who will be his starting goaltender in Game 7.
"He knows he's going back in next game," Vigneault said during his postgame media conference. "He's going to be real good. I don't have to say anything to him. He's a professional. His preparation is beyond reproach and he's going to be ready for Game 7."
The reason for Vigneault's unwavering faith in Luongo is because while his goaltender couldn't stop traffic with a red light and a stop sign in Boston, he's been borderline invincible when playing in Vancouver.
During the playoffs, Luongo is 5-6 on the road with a 3.76 GAA and .878 save percentage. Things were so bad during the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks that after Luongo allowed 10 goals on 40 shots during Games 4 and 5, Vigneault started Cory Schneider in Game 6 in Chicago.
But at home, Luongo looks every bit like a Vezina Trophy finalist. He's 10-3 with a 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage at Rogers Arena during the playoffs. It was similar during the regular season with Luongo, who had a 1.90 GAA and .937 save percentage at home and 2.34 GAA and .917 save percentage on the road.
In the Stanley Cup Final, Luongo is 3-0 with a 0.67 GAA, .971 save percentage and two 1-0 shutouts, including a 31-save shutout in Game 5 after his two poor performances in Games 3 and 4.
Luongo, just like everybody else watching these playoffs, has no explanation for his struggles on the road and dominance at home.
"I've had some success on the road all year, and before this series started I said I enjoy playing in this building," Luongo said. "I am not going to make any excuses. It just didn't happen for me all three games. I'm just going to move on right now. We have one game to win a Stanley Cup. That's what we're looking forward to now."
Cory Schneider played extremely well in relief, stopping 30 of 32 shots. The two goals he allowed were things of beauty -- a Michael Ryder deflection that made it 4-0 just 1:10 after Schneider took over and a David Krejci back-door goal on a 5-on-3 that made it 5-1 at 6:59 of the third period.
Despite Schneider's brilliance in relief, there isn't a soul in the Canucks' locker room saying anyone but Luongo is their man for Game 7.
"We've seen him respond all playoffs," Schneider said. "He's very comfortable in our building and he's saved his best performances for home. He came back in Game 5 and we expect nothing less than that from him. He knows he has to be better. He's harder on himself than anyone else will ever be. He's a consummate pro and he'll be good to go."
"We win as a team, lose as a team," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "I'm not going to single out any individual on our team. We're not going to point the finger at him. We're going to take it as a team."
The seeds for this implosion may have been planted following Luongo's shutout in Game 5. He was asked about the goal Tim Thomas allowed in that 1-0 contest that was the result of a big bounce off the backboards that caromed to Maxim Lapierre, who banked the puck off the out-of-position Thomas for the winner.
Luongo said he'd make that save because he's always in his crease, not out challenging like Thomas. Some believed the quote was used to motivate the Bruins much the same way Aaron Rome's hit on Nathan Horton did during Games 3 and 4, but the Canucks weren't giving any credence to that idea.
"I don't think Thomas cares (what Luongo says)," Henrik Sedin said. "The way he's been handling it, I don't think it affected him. He's been having fun with it."
Before the game, Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton could be seen firing some barbs at Luongo during warmups. Afterward, Thornton said there were no words exchanged, but Luongo said he couldn't repeat what he heard.
During the game, the Bruins wasted little time getting to Luongo on the scoreboard.
Brad Marchand's wrist shot from a tough angle beat Luongo over his catching glove at 5:31 of the first period to make it 1-0.
"It was a good shot, but at the same time I have to make that save," Luongo said. "He put it where he wanted, but I've got to make the save."
Just 35 seconds later, Milan Lucic found himself all alone in front after a 3-on-2 and snapped a shot through Luongo's legs to make 2-0. A mere 2:29 later, Andrew Ference ended Luongo's night with a power-play goal on a screened slapper that Luongo appeared to misread.
It's to the point where it's a broken record, but Luongo will lean on his experience from the Blackhawks series entering Game 7.
"I have to believe in myself, right?" Luongo said. "That's a big component of bouncing back and playing a good game. We're going to put what happened tonight behind us as soon as possible and get ready for what is going to be a dream as far as playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"You can't hang your head now. That would be the worst thing I could do."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo