Roberto Luongo May Never Be Vindicated Until He Wins A Stanley Cup

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 25: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks responds to a comment by Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers during a timeout at the Philips Arena on March 25, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Roberto Luongo has had a solid playoffs, but one goal he flubbed in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals reveals the tenuous relationship between him and the Vancouver media.

Roberto Luongo made 27 saves in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, but that wasn't what the Vancouver media was talking about after the Canucks victory over the San Jose Sharks. Instead, the emphasis was on the one goal.

Late in the first period, Luongo played the puck behind the net and when he tried to pass it to a teammate, the puck ended up on Joe Thornton's stick and in the wide open net.  

Luongo is the goalie who can't seem to win, even when, well, he's winning. His goals-against average this postseason is 2.23 and his save percentage is .918. These are remarkable numbers if you consider he got shelled in two of his 13 starts.

Luongo is 9-5 this postseason, and just three wins away from getting to the Stanley Cup final. But there exists an unhealthy amount of negativity and criticism which follows him.

Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province

Ever since being named the captain in 2008, Luongo has been embroiled in battles with the media and has taken the brunt of criticism from fans. The pressure of being captain in Vancouver put Luongo in the crosshairs, and the expectations that are now on his shoulders, with the team in perhaps the best position to win the Cup in their history, are great.

When a goaltender is paid as much as Luongo is, regardless of the captaincy, those expectations should be there. He was pulled in the first round of the playoffs, and had backup goaltender Cory Schneider not injured himself in Game 6 of that round, Luongo may still be riding the bench. That certainly doesn't help his case.

Is the scrutiny warranted though?

Luongo has proven on Vancouver ice that he can win the big game -- look no further than the 2010 Winter Olympics. He was often overlooked in that tournament thanks to American goaltender Ryan Miller, and wasn't even the starting goaltender when the Olympics started. To top it all off, he was even overlooked in victory thanks to Sidney Crosby's Golden Goal.

Luongo has a 2.23 goals against average and .918 save percentage in 14 playoffs games played this season. Better than Antti Niemi in San Jose. The Sedin twins have had a power outage heading into this series, and one game does not change that much.

If the team doesn't advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, the list of problems will be long before it reaches Luongo's play, but no matter how well Luongo plays in the rest of the Western Conference Finals, it will do nothing to alleviate the scrutiny that he will face. That isn't really fair.

For more on the NHL's Western Conference Final, check in with our Sharks vs. Canucks series hub, as well as our blogs: Fear The Fin covering the Sharks and Nucks Misconduct covering the Canucks. You can find more local coverage at SB Nation Bay Area and Battle of California.

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