Sep 23, 2013, 1:19 PM EST
“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the Vancouver Canucks, we pick…goalie Roberto Luongo.
Full disclosure: we were going to pick Ryan Kesler for this, because 1) there’s quite a bit of pressure on Kesler to return to form, and 2) everyone’s kind of sick of the Canucks’ goaltending saga.
But we just couldn’t do it — nobody’s under more pressure this season in Vancouver than Luongo, for these reasons:
1) His reputation is on the line. Earlier this month, he said his goal is to “get back to where I was two years ago and re-establish myself as one of the best in the league.” Luongo finished the 2013 season with a .907 save percentage, his lowest mark since his rookie season with the Islanders.
2) There’s no legitimate Plan B for the Canucks. Vancouver’s backup is probably going to be Eddie Lack, a 25-year-old who’s yet to make his NHL debut and is coming off hip surgery. Which is to say, Lack is no Cory Schneider. Not yet anyway. If Luongo isn’t good, the Canucks could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
3) The Olympics. Luongo wants to play for Team Canada again. “This is a big year for me,” he said. “I have been sitting on the bench for a while and I want to show everybody what I can do. We all know it’s an Olympic year so I just want to make the best of it.”
On top of all that, Luongo’s long-term future in Vancouver is far from clear, even though the 34-year-old is signed through 2021-22. Remember, the Canucks still have one of their compliance buyouts remaining. And while ownership was obviously loathe to use it this past summer, if Luongo struggles badly this season, the pressure from fans (a.k.a. customers) to use it next June will be immense. Vancouver hockey fans pay some of the highest ticket prices in the NHL. In return, they expect ownership to use its deep pockets to put the best team possible on the ice.
But that debate can wait for later, if necessary. (We don’t even want to get into the whole “Luongo might not actually mind getting bought out” angle.)
Luongo, by the way, didn’t get off to the best start in the preseason; on Wednesday, he allowed four goals in the first 12:24 versus the Oilers, including this stinker:
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.
Dec 6, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
Friday’s collection of links.
Dec 6, 2013, 3:00 AM EST
No timetable for return.
Dec 6, 2013, 2:15 AM EST
Patrick Roy should know how this feels.
Dec 6, 2013, 1:35 AM EST
Bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
Dec 6, 2013, 1:02 AM EST
Triumph in the face of adversity.
Dec 6, 2013, 12:42 AM EST
Bad night for Colorado.
Dec 6, 2013, 12:14 AM EST
Still trying to find consistency.
Dec 5, 2013, 11:48 PM EST
Right to the point.
Dec 5, 2013, 11:25 PM EST
Pacioretty says he feels ‘awful’ for Boychuk incident.
Dec 5, 2013, 11:01 PM EST
Expectation is that he’ll be OK.
Dec 5, 2013, 10:35 PM EST
They can thank their goalie for two points.
Dec 5, 2013, 10:14 PM EST
Tough night for defensemen across NHL.
Dec 5, 2013, 9:50 PM EST
Pascal Dupuis had only two shifts in second period before leaving the game.
Dec 5, 2013, 9:25 PM EST
Tampa Bay already has a full sickbay.
Dec 5, 2013, 8:51 PM EST
He won’t return tonight.
Dec 5, 2013, 8:29 PM EST
He ranks second on the team in shorthanded minutes.
Dec 5, 2013, 7:57 PM EST
Marek Mazanec has done a fine job in his absence.
Dec 5, 2013, 7:22 PM EST
Their reinforcements are at very different stages in their careers.
Dec 5, 2013, 6:42 PM EST
He’ll make life a little easier for Curtis McElhinney while he fills in for Sergei Bobrovsky.
Dec 5, 2013, 6:11 PM EST
The Stars will play against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Boychuk boarded by Pacioretty, taken off on stretcher (Update: has movement in extremities) 43
- Seguin (concussion) cleared to play tonight 0
- Bylsma: Sharks are NHL’s best, ‘with all due respect to Chicago’ 87
- Will the Rangers use a compliance buyout on Richards? 9
- Malkin (lower body) to miss tonight’s game versus Sharks 20
- Flyers’ Couturier: ‘We’re starting to believe in ourselves’ 59
- Columbus puts Bobrovsky (groin) on IR, out 4-5 weeks 3
- The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Olympic odds, Russia’s defense, King Henrik’s new deal, Fire Cappy? and more 28
- With Lundqvist deal done, Sather faces tough questions 11
- King of New York: Rangers sign Lundqvist to seven-year, $59.5 million extension 42
- Bylsma: Sharks are NHL’s best, ‘with all due respect to Chicago’ (87)
- Flyers’ Couturier: ‘We’re starting to believe in ourselves’ (59)
- Lehtonen shines, Roussel agitates as Stars beat ‘Hawks (53)
- Video: Canucks’ Bieksa fights Rangers’ Boyle, then kicks Boyle’s helmet (52)
- Boychuk boarded by Pacioretty, taken off on stretcher (Update: has movement in extremities) (44)