October 21, 2011

Why Vancouver Canucks Fans Need to Lay Off Luongo

Yes, Luongo has had a few terrible games to start the season, and yes, criticism of his play is justified. However, vilifying the Vezina finalist netminder in the fashion the Vancouver fans have been lately is, to put it bluntly, childish. Every fan base is quick to blame a goaltender for every misfortune the team faces, especially when losses are involved. 
But what those, as I call them, “cafeteria fans” fail to recognize about the Vancouver goaltender, is that October is not kind to him, nor the Canucks in general. Look at the past few season, and you will find the Canucks starting painfully slow in October, and quickly jumping to the top of the pack in November and December. So blaming Luongo for early-season losses is unwarranted. He deserves constructive criticism, not vilification. 
As a Canuck fan myself, and an avid Luongo supporter (who can stay impartial, trust me), I was furious with the way Luongo performed in the 4-0 loss to the Rangers. Granted, I was watching more as a goaltending analyst than a fan, and judged the goaltender by the very high bar he set for himself last season. But what I needed to remember, along with everyone in southwestern British Columbia, is that Luongo is not a machine, he is not perfect, and every player has off-nights. Most of the Vancouver fan base verbally assaulted Luongo, who let by 4 goal in the shutout loss to NYR, but uttered nary a peep about the rest of the team in front of him, all of whom failed to put the puck past Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Granted, King Henrik did play a phenomenal game. 
Vancouver fans, please refrain from swarming Luongo alone like vultures, then picking him apart after every poor performance. Instead, focus on every aspect of the team. Was defense supporting him? Was the offense producing? How did the flow of the game affect the entire team?
The same goes for praising the goaltender. While his 1 GA outing against the Predators tonight (Oct 20, 2011), was solid, it should be expected. One game does not make or break a goaltender, don’t act like it does. Luongo is an elite NHL goalie, who needs to get into a rhythm before his performance can be judged accurately. If he stands on his head and performs in Vezina form, cool the jets, and look at the big picture. Don’t exalt him amongst the gods after a career-best performance. 
Luongo’s mental game is the weakest part of his goaltending arsenal. Give him praise when he doesn’t deserve it, and he gets overconfident. Chastise him after a single poor game, and he has the potential to slump. Canuck fans, don’t turn into Columbus, where the most avid fans turn on their goaltender faster than a Chara clapper. Steve Mason can tell you, that does not help build confidence in a goaltender, so please, be smart with your rhetoric, Canuck faithful, you will find it much easier on your stress levels if you do. 

Greg Summy

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