When it comes to deciding a starting goaltender, Alain Vigneault’s scientific methods are said to include input from his coaching staff and general manager Mike Gillis.
The final word ultimately lies with him. Or, as the Canucks head coach joking demonstrated to reporters, a flip of a coin.
Maybe it was the coin, maybe it was a group consensus or maybe it was just him, but Vigneault has chosen Roberto Luongo over Cory Schneider to start Friday against the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks’ bitter rival, at Rogers Arena.
The decision was publicly rendered Thursday afternoon following the Canucks practice.
“Again, like I mentioned, I’m not going to get into all the reasons behind it, but tomorrow (Luongo) is playing,” said Vigneault.
The 33-year-old Luongo is coming off a tidy 24-save shutout over the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday, and going back two days, a spectacular performance that ended in a shootout loss to the L.A. Kings.
Schneider, the Canucks starting goalie to begin the season, received the hook early in the second period of the home opener after allowing five goals on 14 shots – his teammates didn’t give him much help – and is coming off a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks in his last start. He’ll sit on the bench for a third straight game.
The 26-year-old Schneider has said and done all the right things, opting for self-accountability over self-pity.
“I think we’re past the point of disappointment and anger and frustration,” he said.
“It is what it is and you have to be a professional about it and handle it the right way…improve your game and try to get back in the net.
“Like I said, I don’t feel bad for myself. I don’t think anybody else does. So, it’s just something that I can control and I can work on myself and if I want to play then I’ll be better. It’s as simple as that.”
For months, ever since Schneider started ahead of Luongo in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series against L.A., the talk has been that Luongo will be traded.
Now, Luongo will face a Blackhawks team that is 6-0-1, leads the Western Conference in points and and possesses notable scoring threats Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa – to name a few.
These are players that have demonized Luongo in the past, and on some high-pressure stages, such as the playoffs. The Blackhawks eliminated the Canucks in the second round of both the 2009 and 2010 playoffs.
“I just put pressure on myself,” said Luongo.
“I want to perform every night. It comes from within most of the time. At the end of the day I want to win for this team, I want to be part of the team and help them the best way that I can.
“Right now I’m feeling good about the way that I’m playing and hopefully be able to carry that over.”
Canucks and Blackhawks renew rivalry
Friday’s game between the Canucks and Blackhawks marks the first time the teams have met since March 21, 2012, when Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith elbowed Daniel Sedin, concussing the Vancouver winger.
Keith was suspended five games.
Sedin missed 12 games, including regular season and playoffs, with a concussion. He returned to the Canucks lineup in Game 4 of the Western Conference quarter-final.
That only added to what has been, for the past four years, a bitter rivalry spawned out of three consecutive post-season battles.
But the Keith elbow is no longer an issue, according to Daniel Sedin.
“That’s nothing. It’s another game. It’s game eight of our season and we’re trying to get a win,” he said.
No one should expect a change from the physical, emotional and entertaining contests the Canucks and Blackhawks together have provided in recent years.
The Canucks insist that won’t include retribution against Keith.
“That was last year and nothing about last year is going to change if we spend 60 minutes running around, chasing Duncan Keith and putting ourselves short-handed against a very good, skilled hockey team,” said Vancouver blue liner Keith Ballard.
“We’ll probably end up losing the game if we do that and…like I said, it won’t change one thing about last year.”