Cup finals goalies stick to different styles

June 7, 2011 - 4:29 PM
Stanley Cup Canucks Hockey

Vancouver Canucks' goaltender Roberto Luongo pauses for a moment as he speaks to the media during a news conference for the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Tuesday, June 7, 2011, in Boston. The Canucks lead the Boston Bruins 2-1 in the best-of-seven games series. Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday in Boston. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

BOSTON (AP) — Robert Luongo and Tim Thomas have drastically different styles with one overriding similarity.

The stay-at-home goalie and the roamer are two of the NHL's best at their position.

At times, the approach that has worked so well fails: Thomas vacating the net on an overtime goal that gave Vancouver a win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, then Luongo filling the crease with his full 6-foot-3 height but still letting eight goals fly by in Boston's win in Game 3.

But their biggest mistake would be to change their styles.

They're not about to do that in Game 4 on Wednesday night with the Canucks leading the Bruins 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

"I've been playing well all year. I think it's worked out pretty well for me," Luongo said Tuesday, the day after the 8-1 loss. "I made some adjustments before the year started, so I'm not going to readjust again."

The Bruins lost the first two games 1-0 and 3-2, although Thomas played well. But when Alex Burrows charged ahead in Game 2, Thomas went out to cut down the angle. Burrows skated around him and continued behind the net, then tucked the puck in the far side 11 seconds into overtime.

"I have a pretty good idea of how to play goalie," Thomas said with a smile after the loss. "I'm not going to be taking suggestions or advice at this time. I'm just going to keep playing the way I have."

Thomas led the NHL with a 2.00 goals against average. Luongo was second at 2.11. Thomas also topped the league with a .938 save percentage. Luongo was third among starting goalies at .928.

That pair, plus Pekka Rinne of Nashville, are the finalists for the Vezina Trophy. In 2009, Thomas won the award given to the NHL's best goaltender.

Though they may have occasional lapses, the goalies in the finals also have the confidence of their teammates and coaches.

While the Bruins' offensive onslaught grabbed the spotlight, Thomas allowed just one goal on 41 shots.

"When you look at the final score, you don't think he had any impact on the game, but he had a big impact on the game," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "When it's 2-0, some of those big saves, to keep it to that score until we've scored the third one (were critical). If it's a 2-1 hockey game, now you're giving the other team some light and it could have been a different outcome."

Both goalies were sharp through a scoreless first period.

Then the Bruins caught a break when Andrew Ference scored the first goal after Vancouver's Alexander Edler broke his stick trying to clear the puck. Mark Recchi was credited with the second goal when his pass into the crease deflected into the net off the stick of Canucks forward Ryan Kesler.

"They got a couple of fortunate bounces and then, all of a sudden, the floodgates open and maybe they get a little bit of confidence," Luongo said.

He allowed three more goals in the last 2½ minutes of the game, but there was plenty of blame to go around — and a lot of faith that Luongo would bounce right back.

"He's done it all year, so that's not a problem," NHL scoring champion Daniel Sedin said. "You can't really say it was his fault. I think, as a team, we didn't help him out. They scored (two goals) on the power play and (two) on our power play, which should not happen."

Luongo doesn't have to go very far back to remember the last time he struggled.

Vancouver won the first three games of the opening round against Chicago. One more win and the Canucks would be on to the next round. But they lost the next two, with Luongo being pulled from both of them. Cory Schneider started Game 6 before cramps forced him to the bench and brought in Luongo.

Vancouver lost that game but won the seventh — behind Luongo.

Now he has just one day off to recover.

"This is the Stanley Cup finals," Luongo said. "I've waited my whole life to be here. I'm not going to put my head down. It's time to get back to work. Obviously, (Monday) night was disappointing for all of us, but we've got a great opportunity here."

Now that the teams have faced each other three times in six days, they might have a better idea about how to beat the opposing goalie. But it's not that easy, especially when they're so talented.

"It's not like there's some special book that's floating around on how to beat them," Ference said. "It's really just about being consistent with throwing pucks at the net. Playoff goals, you always hear about the greasy ones and traffic in front of the net and rebounds.

"It's no secret. Every team would probably say the exact same comments about our goalie. Because they're good goalies, that's the only way you beat them. You don't get them on clean shots from the outside."

Not very often anyway, even after a horrible game like the one Luongo must bounce back from.

"This is part of goaltending and you have to have a short memory. You can't dwell on what happened," he said. "It might even be easier to bounce back from a game like (Monday) night realizing that we didn't have our best game and we just need to bring it."