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Does Luongo really meltdown in the playoffs?


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Does Roberto suffer breakdowns in the post season?

51 saves in 66 shots in Boston during the finals suggests he does let things get the better of him sad.gif.

Roberto Luongo and postseason breakdowns

Cam Charron

September 20 2011 08:12AM

We are just three days into training camp, and already the 9-5 media is filling time on sports talk radio with a made up Vancouver Canucks goaltending controversy. The Kurtenbloggers, fresh in the noontime spot on Vancouver's TEAM 1040 radio, discussed at length whether Roberto Luongo was capable of winning a Stanley Cup, and whether or not Cory Schneider should be given a chance to compete for the starting job.

As of 12:22 Pacific Time on Monday, 83 per cent of fans on the TEAM 1040's website who voted in their daily poll agreed that "Yes, Cory Schneider should be given a chance to compete for the number one job." The arguments the Kurtenbloggers discussed included Schneider's improvement and success over a small sample of NHL games, but also the perceived mental anguish that Roberto Luongo suffers on a night-to-night basis in the NHL playoffs, and his propensity to "melt-down" and give up buckets of goals in "big games".

Let's face it: the goaltending issue that the Canucks faced in the Stanley Cup Finals was at the other end. Tim Thomas was a brick wall measuring about 7' by 5' in the Cup Finals. Luongo, admittedly, was pretty average over the course of seven games. In his 25 playoff games last season, Luongo won 15 games and had a .914 save percentage. In the first 25 games of the regular season, Luongo also won 15 game and had a .914 save percentage. Calling Roberto a regular season goaltender or somebody who has troubles in the playoffs is not just wrong, it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the ratios at play. Sample size is a big issue when evaluating goaltenders, and this perspective needs to be kept.

Luongo's best games this postseason were Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks, Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks and Game 5 against the Bruins. Those were all games in high-leverage situations and vital in their respective series, and yet the Canucks only won those games by a single goal each - two of them in overtime. Much of Luongo's perceived postseason failings (despite never having suffered a first round loss) stem from the fact that his forwards appear to give up in front of him.

To show this, I'm going to bring up the last two Cup-winning goaltenders: Tim Thomas of the Bruins and Antti Niemi, the goaltender formerly of the Blackhawks who now starts for the San Jose Sharks.

First off, here are the percentage of games where a goalie gave up at least 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 goals.

GA Thomas Luongo Niemi

1+ 88% 92% 95%

2+ 58% 71% 83%

3+ 37% 42% 60%

4+ 21% 25% 35%

5+ 7% 12% 8%

As you can see, Luongo is not all that far off from Thomas. In one of every four of Luongo's playoff games he'll allow four or more goal against. The frequency with which Luongo gives up four goals (or more) is only slightly higher than the rate for Tim Thomas. Niemi, who I don't view as a good goalie even though he has won a Stanley Cup, seems to be much more prone to 3+ and 4+ goal "meltdowns".

The 5+ statistic seems to swing a little more towards the anti-Luongo camp, but 12% doesn't imply a meltdown every series, more like one every two, but that's not all that much greater of a rate than Thomas or Niemi. I will add that this chart shows just how lucky the Bruins are to have Tim Thomas: He allows one or fewer goals 42% of the time.

No, the worry I have with the 5+ statistic comes with the guys in front of Roberto Luongo. Even if a team allows 5, you can still win 6-5 or 7-5. Luongo has not had such luck. Here is a list of each goaltenders' winning percentage when they have allowed that amount of goals:

GA Thomas Luongo Niemi

0 1.000 1.000 1.000

1 0.769 0.833 1.000

2 0.667 0.706 0.778

3 0.286 0.300 0.600

4 0.333 0.250 0.273

5+ 0.333 0.000 0.333

The issue here is that the Canucks are 5-20 (.200) when Luongo has allowed three or more goals in a game over his playoff career. It seems that the Canucks have been extremely reliant on Luongo to keep them in games. (Niemi is .417 at 3+ GA, and Thomas is .313). Consider that Antii "knows how to win" Niemi allowed 21 goals in his six games in the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 - but you'll never hear him called a "choker" - not because of how he played, but because his team scored 25 goals in the finals.

Roberto Luongo can win a Stanley Cup. His "meltdown" propensity is largely a fan-perception issue, and if the Canucks forwards are on the right side of variance, those apparent meltdowns will certainly appear less meltdowny.


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You can't use stats like this because, far and away, the production from the forwards is limited by what is happening in their own end. You won't score goals if you are constantly pulling pucks out of your own end. You can't say that "Oh, the Canucks only scored one goal, that means that Luongo would have had to get a shutout in order for them to get the win". They only scored one goal because they were getting SLAUGHTERED.

Cause and effect, chummmmmm

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Love how the article puts "big games" and "meltdowns" in quotes as if they weren't meltdowns and they weren't in big games. Both elimination games against Chicago before this year were true meltdowns and they were indeed big games, just like games 6 and 7 of this past year's finals, both of which were also meltdowns and both of which were truly big games. I guess the writer believes that you can prove anything with numbers. Luongo is arguably the worst "big game" goalie in history.

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The offense and the defense were terrible during the losses in the SCF. That is undeniable. The forwards did not show up in the losses and the defense broke down post-Hamhuis injury. However, Luongo's play was so poor that it made the quality of the rest of the team redundant.

Luongo doesn't melt down?

Dallas 2007 game 7 (1GA) W 20SA 19S 60MIN

Anaheim 2007 game 5 (2GA) L 58SA 56S 80:56MIN

Chicago 2009 game 6 (7GA) L 30SA 23S 60MIN

Chicago 2010 game 6 (5GA) L 35SA 30S 60MIN

Chicago 2011 game 7 (1GA) W 32SA 31S 65:22MIN

Boston 2011 game 7 (3GA) L 20SA 17S 59:35MIN

Luongo: Canucks' elimination game stats:


.902 save%

2-4 record

Post 2008, Luongo has been terrible in elimination games. Even so..

It can be clearly seen that Luongo is trying to argue with the referees about a call, thus being distracted, and allows a very weak goal to end the series. The rest of the losses? Well, they were all poor performances. To say that Luongo doesn't melt down ever is a fallacy when he has done it several times. I believe this was the turning point in Luongo's mentality.

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To me, game 6 was the killer. Yes, Louie had poor games in game 3 and 4, but an early save in game six would have made the difference. The Canucks had the run of play leading up to the Marchand goal and letting that one in plus the even weaker Lucic goal half a minute later ended this one early.

For the life of me, I can't figure out what happened to his play between Vancouver and Boston. He was brilliant in game five and starting him in game six, even considering his previous two starts in Beantown, was a no-brainer.

The easy explanation would be that he isn't a road goalie, but the fact is, he was 5-3 on the road leading up to the finals.

"Meltdown" may be too stong a term, but I do think there is an issue with mental fragility when it comes to Roberto Luongo.

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I little like the statistical breakdown! Those numbers don't lie and quite honestly I think that Vancouver fans suffer from tunnel vision when

it comes to their beloved Canucks. I know sometimes I do.

The only thing I do get irritated about with Loungo is that he seems to be a little bit fragile in the huge games. Sometimes he will play solidly and some times he looks like he's a nervous nelly in there. I know, I know everyone is nervous on that big of a stage but with him it just looks like he really struggles physically because of the mental aspect. He is a real asset to Vancouver though when it's all said and done.

Even though we all think Shneider could have outplayed him at times in the Playoffs, the truth of the matter is there will come a time when Shneider gets lit up in a critical playoff game. At that point he too may look unsure of his abilities from time to time just like Lou.

Overall I think Loungo is one of the more solid playoff goalies around and will be for some time yet.

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Sure he melts down. So does Thomas. Going into that series there were real questions as to which Thomas would show up on any given night. Nobody and I mean NOBODY expected him to turn in seven amazing goaltending performances in that series, but he did it and that silenced the critics. Luongo has yet to silence his critics but that one series doesn't change what kind of goaltender he is or is capable of being.

I don't understand putting all the blame on him, though. And not everyone here is doing that. I agree that if Luongo falters and AV doesn't put the backup in, that's a failure on AV's part. But we know this coach is always so slow to learn. He'll figure it out next time, hopefully. I'd replace Vigneault before Luongo. I think Luongo is a better goaltender than Schneider, but we've got two good goaltenders so we should use them both. I also think that if the team really does melt down and lose all confidence after Luongo lets in a couple of softies, that's the team's problem, not just Luongo's.

Also throughout that whole series it was pretty clear that the Bruins were adapting faster and figuring out the Canucks system and how to shut us down. The Canucks failed to adapt and a big part of that is on Coach V as well. Even when Luongo turned in great goaltending performances we had to wait for late goals from the likes of Torres and Lapierre to win at home.

One final point, there is no more irrelevant statistic than how many goals a goaltender or team lets in after the game is already out of reach. Who cares at that point. It's not worse to lose by six goals than to lose by two.

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The only reason Vancouver hasn't UNANIMOUSLY declared Luongo a meltdown goalie is that Dan Cloutier is still in all of our recent memory.

Luongo is a great goalie and CAPABLE of backstopping his team to great things, but he is also CLEARLY among the more meltdown-prone starting goalies in the NHL.

There is NO QUESTION about this.

However, this team, not long ago, had THE BIGGEST MELTDOWN KING in NHL history. So even fairly severe sports psych issues seem insignificant by comparison.

Kirk McLean = 9.5 / 10 in terms of avoiding meltdowns in key situations

Dan Cloutier = 0.5 / 10 in terms of avoiding meltdowns in key situations

Roberto Luongo = 3.0 / 10 in terms of avoiding meltdowns in key situations

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  • 2 weeks later...

With Luongo you don't know what you are going to get. When he is on he is great but when he is off he is bad. AV should have a shorter leash on RL this year. I mean if he looks shaky early don't hesitate to pull him as AV has a competent back up in Schneider. I just wished AV would take off the rose colored glasses. Look what Boston said to their Conn Smythe winning goaltender, that he will have to earn the starting spot this year.

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I don't know why Luongo is considered a problem in a series our team scores 7 goals in 7 games in. The guy got two shutouts in the Stanley cup finals. If anything Luongo is the only reason we got to game 7.

I mean think about it, your team scores 7 goals in Six games in the Stanley cup playoffs and you get to even play a game 7? People shouldn't complain about Lu losing game 7, cause it was his game to lose. He got us there in the first place.

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I'll admit that whilst hockey is a team game, the entire team is accountable for the loss this past season, and for some reason Lou never gets pulled after 3 or 4 goals which eventually turns into an embarrassment for him. So here the little issue I can't get pass, when was the last time a cup winning goalie let in 12 friggin' goals in 2 consecutive playoff games?!?! that's what just throws me off my rocker! it is completely inexcusable, be it Lou's fault or AV's, honestly it starts with Lou and ends with AV!!!! how can you win like that?! It's all about learning from your mistakes, but the NHL doesn't have time for slow learners! it's do or die and we keep making mistakes!

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Good article.

I always like to remind people how well Luongo would have had to have played in order for us to have beat Boston.

Game 1 - Canucks score 1 goal - Luongo must be perfect

Game 2 - Canucks have a good game and score 3 - Luongo can't let it more than 2

Game 3 - Canucks score 1 goal - Luongo must be perfect

Game 4 - Canucks are shutout - Luongo must be perfect for 60 minutes +

Game 5 - Canucks score 1 goal - Luongo must be perfect

Game 6 - Canucks score 2 goals - Luongo can't let in more than 1

Game 7 - Canucks are shutout - Luongo must be perfect for 60 minutes +

Obviously games 4 and 7 would be the hardest for Luongo to win, but luckily we only need four wins to get the cup, so lets see what numbers he would need to have led us to a cup:

In order to win games 1, 2, (either 3 or 5) and 6, Luongo could only let in 3 goals over these 4 games. So he needed to have a GAA of 0.75 in order to bring us the cup. Oddly enough, Tim Thomas did just that, 0.75 GAA in the 4 games Boston won.

So the only possible way for us to have won the cup would be for us to get Vezina quality goaltending that was far and away the best goaltending in the playoffs. Hardly sounds like our forwards and defense (awesome as they were) gave Luongo much of a chance. Anyone who wasn't Thomas would have similarly 'lost us' the series. Despite this, we still won three games, probably in large part due to Luongo's world class ability. A lesser goalie might have let us get swept.

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Honestly, whats the point of denying Luongo has problems in the playoffs? If we find ourselves in the same situation next playoff, are you guys still going to be saying this is a team problem when Luongo lets in 8 goals on 19 shots? Again, what is the point?

The Canuck organization itself has already taken measures to try and fix this, such as reducing the number of games he plays, removing the "C", and getting a new goaltending coach. They dont seem to be ingoring the issue, they are trying to remedy the situation.

And if he struggles again inexplicably next playoff, I wont be in the least bit surprised if they go to Scnieder a lot more quickly, because that would be consistent with their thinking this whole time. They are not ignoring this problem, they are trying to fix it, because I think the fate of the entire team is more important then potentially bruising Luongo's ego.

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