The ins and outs of NHL goings-on are not always known to fans and media, but when it comes to telling a player he's sitting it's easy enough to see how tough a chore that would be. You wanna tell a gold-medal winning veteran goalie he's benched?
Canucks asst. coach Rick Bowness wasn't the point man in deciding Roberto Luongo wouldn't play and Cory Schneider would get the reigns for the rest of their series with the L.A. Kings. Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault was, but Bowness was a part of the decision-making process to go with the 26-year-old Schneider and after practice Thursday he told media it was a hard choice for a variety of reasons.
“You have no idea how incredibly difficult that was because of the amount of respect we have for Roberto, not only as a goalie and as a professional, but as a man,” he said. “That’s probably the most difficult decision Alain’s had to make in our tenure here.”
Cory Schneider: Game 4 win over L.A.
While Luongo has many detractors, fans and media alike, some who feel he cost them a Stanley Cup last season with his poor play in the games in Boston during the final, he also has many who look to him to be the guy that leads the team when it matters the most. And he'd played well in the first two games of the Kings series, both home-ice losses. But arguably he was not stellar and he lost the start for game 3.
That would have been a tough decision in itself but the bigger difficulty for Vigneault likely came after Vancouver lost game 3, 1-0, in L.A.. They were down 3-0 and both goalies had played well but lost. Many thought he'd go back to the number 1 guy, but the coaching staff liked what they saw in Schneider's start - and his regular season record - and he got the call for game 4.
Roberto Luongo benching: the right choice
Clearly, given Schneider's 43-save performance, including a crucial stop on the third period on a Dustin Brown penalty shot that would have tied the game, there are no second thoughts. Would the Canucks be set to entertain the Kings in game 5 in Vancouver Sunday (game time TBA) had Luongo been the guy for game 4? Many Canuck fans think not.
"I don't think we'd have won if Luongo had started," fan Dave Pearson told DJ on Friday. "It's his consistency, it's too up and down. I think we'd all being going golfing about now if he'd started game 4."
So what now? If Schneider, and his teammates, can do the unthinkable and win 3 more straight against L.A. and get themselves into round 2, then will Luongo get back into the mix? After all, he's the guy who won 15 playoff games last season. They'll be media and fans on both sides of that equation and it will be sure to become another Canuck goaltender controversy.
And that, in Vancouver, is nothing new.