Northwest Noise: Luongo Left to Sit Behind Blue Eyes in Canucks Crease

Note: After two weeks of Don Cherry commentary, it turns out I was completely copying the idea from fellow hockey scribe Cam Charron, who came up with “Don Cherry Confused Me” just previous to the inception of Sour Grapes, so check out his continuing feature for your Coach’s Corner fix.

Northwest Noise is a weekly feature covering the past week in Vancouver Canucks news, offering you a soundtrack to their season every Monday as the team marches to the beat of its own drum throughout the regular season. 

The focus is on Cory Schneider in the Canucks crease.

The focus is on Cory Schneider in the Canucks crease.

Over twenty games into the regular season the competition in the Canucks’ crease continues as Cory Schneider keeps in rhythm during his time under the Vancouver spotlight. Schneider has shined during Roberto Luongo’s absence from the lineup out due to injury but now that the normal number one is back and ready for action it appears the beat goes on for the blue-eyed backup.

After comparing Roberto Luongo to the man behind blue eyes earlier in the season, it seems the parallel has come to life as Luongo literally finds himself sitting behind Schneider for the time being in Vancouver. While Schneider will start Tuesday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Head Coach Alain Vigneault was honest with his priorities when it comes to the two talented goaltenders.

“Obviously Roberto is our number one goaltender, before he got hurt he was starting to find his game. We put Cory in and he wasn’t very good against Chicago but after that he was the best player on the ice against Ottawa, shutout, shutout, and then the performance he had last night, he’s played well and he’s going to play tomorrow,” Vigneault told the media Monday.

As Vigneault mentioned, Schneider’s shutout streak is one of the main reasons the backup has continued to receive the start lately. However, what Vigneault doesn’t mention is that the skaters in front of Schneider have been playing their best hockey of the season during the duo of donuts.

Not only have Vancouver’s skaters been playing some of their best hockey of the season in front of Schneider, but the Canucks have also faced some of their worst competition over his past few starts. Before Schneider’s stellar solo performance on the San Jose stage, the backup had yet backstop a win against top NHL competition. Of the Senators, Coyotes and Avalanche, only the Phoenix Coyotes are currently in playoff position.

Manny Malhotra’s opening goal in Saturday’s game against the Sharks marked the tenth unanswered even-strength goal from Vancouver’s vicious attack during Schneider’s time in the spotlight. The backup may have suffered from a lack of scoring support in earlier starts during the season, however in his recent stretch has thrived behind a hard-working corps of Canucks skaters.

The competition in the Canucks crease may have the potential to create controversy among fans; however the drive for both goaltenders to push each other has become the backbone of Vancouver’s success. As hockey fans have seen in Boston over the past few seasons, backup goaltenders are capable of becoming rock stars in the eyes of management and media, but can’t always be counted on to carry the ball.

Just as all the members of The Who were necessary to fill the sound of Behind Blue Eyes and other songs of my (dad’s) generation, Cory Schneider is only a piece of Vigneault’s Vancouver orchestra.  Pete Townshend may have come up with the concept of the deaf dumb and blind boy that shot The Who to stardom, but it took Roger Daltrey to become to voice of Tommy to fully realize the album’s potential. In the Canucks’ crease, pressure provided by Cory Schneider may be necessary to make the most of Luongo’s talent.

“The Who was built on competition, but the competition was horrendous on and off the stage.” – Roger Daltrey

After overcoming tension with backup goaltender Tuukka Rask, veteran Tim Thomas backed the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup in a Conn Smythe winning performance. Following fisticuffs between Townshend and Daltrey in the early days of The Who, it would take a collaboration of their two talents to create the timeless classic that is Tommy.

While Roberto Luongo is saying all the right things heading into Schneider’s sixth straight start against the Blue Jackets, the time spent behind blue eyes on the Canucks bench is sure to light a fire under the consummate competitor.  “Schneids has been playing unreal the last couple weeks and the guys been working hard for two years and never said a word so he deserves every minute he’s getting right now,” Luongo told the media Monday.

“Winning games is what’s important and I’m going to be ready when it’s my turn to go.”

The overture continues Tuesday with Schneider to start again against Columbus, but will Luongo’s time away from the big stage provide the miracle cure Canucks fans are hoping for when he returns?

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About the Author: Kevin Vanstone is a long time sports fan and Canucks die hard from White Rock, British Columbia. He is currently attending the University of Victoria pursuing a Writing degree, and in his spare time writes about all things Canucks hockey as well as news and notes from around the NHL.

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