Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo has been called a choke artist by his critics because he has performed lower than normal in a handful of big games, going all the way back to his pre-Canuck years. And more recently, in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Luongo allowed 12 Boston Bruins goals, adding fuel to the fire of criticism.
And then he carried the Canucks to victory in Game 5 with a shutout.
Luongo said he ignored the naysayers and concentrated on this job. I only have to prove things to myself, my teammates, and my family and friends, Luongo told reporters. That's who I play for. I play the game because I love it and I want to win the Stanley Cup. So that's the only motivation I need right now. I try to block everything else out. Sometimes it's hard to do in a city like this. You can't let those things affect you, because then they will affect your game.
But given the way he excelled in the last game of Vancouver's first-round series against Chicago, when he stopped 31 of 32 shots on goal and set the Canucks up for a 2-1 overtime win to propel them into the second round against Nashville, the question may be, does Luongo need more pressure to perform at the highest level? Last night, Luongo absolutely had to shut down the Bruins. And he did. Maybe Luongo in 2011 needs maximum pressure to bring out his best.
Luongo had 31 saves last night in Vancouver's 1-0 win. Maybe the pressure finally got intense enough for him to turn it up a notch. One more shutout and Luongo will be hoisting up the Stanley Cup trophy.