InGoal daily update: Luongo leaves Canucks
… plus Dipietro’s history wrecking return, Ward keeps Carolina in the playoff hunt, and lots of roster moves in the first of what will now be daily updates at InGoal Magazine:
Luongo was headed to the airport and an overnight flight to Florida for the birth of his second child, which the media was later told took place Wednesday morning as he and wife Gina welcomed a baby boy, Gianni Antonio Luongo, into the family. Much like the birth of big sister Gabriella almost three years ago, Gianni was born in Florida, where the couple keeps a home built during Luongo’s days with the Panthers.
That is where the similarities end, however.
Unlike the details of Gabriella’s birth late in the 2007-08 season, Luongo kept this pregnancy almost entirely to himself right up to Tuesday’s post-game departure. This was largely because the 31-year-old was still upset by the rampant speculation that followed his first experience becoming a father.
The difference is last time the birth happened in the middle of a playoff drive that failed in part because an overworked Luongo lost four straight while jetting back and forth across the continent. The first pregnancy also included Luongo skipping the All Star Game after being voted in by fans so he could spend time with his wife in Florida, and missing a home game after the break before rejoining the team on the road.
Then, when it was time to have the baby in March, Luongo inexplicably played back-to-back nights in Calgary and Colorado, flew to Florida overnight for the birth the following day, and then back to Minnesota the next morning to start for a third time in four nights. He was pulled twice while losing all four games as the Canucks and an injury-riddled defense tumbled out of the playoffs with a late-season slide.
“At that time we were in a dogfight to get in,” head coach Alain Vigneault explained recently. “We had tonnes of injuries, especially on our back end. He was the guy. He wanted to play. We put him in a very hard situation. We had a lot of travel, a lot of games. Unfortunately, we all came up short.”
Luongo has a different recollection about the coaches wanting him to play, and admits now it was way too much in a short period and a game off during that whirlwind four-day stretch would have made sense.
At least he won’t have to worry about it this time. With a small cushion atop the Northwest Division and more faith in rookie backup Cory Schneider than they had in then-No.2 Curtis Sanford three seasons ago, the Canucks no longer need to overplay Luongo, especially in the middle of the season.
When Luongo arrived back in Vancouver late Christmas night after visiting his wife in Florida last week, the Canucks gave Schneider a rare second-straight start, marking the first time a healthy Luongo had sat out two straight while healthy. And even though Luongo will be back from Florida in time for a New Year’s Eve game in Dallas, he will watch as the backup because Schneider is scheduled to start for a third time in four games.
That would have been unthinkable three seasons and one baby ago for the Canucks – and Luongo.
From IR to 1st Star for Islanders’ Dipietro
For a goalie that has made his biggest headlines by getting hurt, it was nice to see beleaguered New York Islanders stopper Rick Dipietro make news coming off the injured list on Wednesday night.
Not only was Dipietro, returning from swelling in his surgically repaired knee, First Star after making 37 saves to backstop the lowly Islanders past league-leading Pittsburgh 2-1 in a shootout, he also ended Penguins’ star Sidney Crosby’s 25-game point streak, the longest in the NHL in 18 years.
“It wasn’t me. It was a complete team effort,” DiPietro told the Islanders website of ending Crosby’s 50-point streak. “It’s a defensive core that played with a lot of focus and a lot of heart tonight and the offense chipped in. I have said it since the start of the year, but when we are playing smart in our defensive zone and we aren’t running around making stupid mistakes at our blue line, we are a good hockey team.”
Ward keeping Canes in playoff hunt
Say what you want about the lack of strength in the Eastern Conference compared to their counterparts in the west, but that doesn’t take away from the job Cam Ward is doing to keep the young, cheap Carolina Hurricanes in the weaker sister’s playoff race. Ward made 37 saves for his second shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over Ottawa Wednesday, one night after stopping 34 in a 4-3 win in Toronto.
“It’s just like anybody else, we’re looking at the standings and seeing us just below that red line,” Ward told reporters. “You don’t want to see too much of a gap where you can’t catch up by the end of the season so it’s important that you take care of the games against teams that are below you or right there with you.”
The best of his saves came of Mr. Carrie Underwood, Mike Fischer, but with a .927 save percentage behind an inexperienced squad, it’s clear Ward has needed to make highlight stops like these on an regular basis:
Antti Niemi has already beaten the Blackhawks team he helped lead to last season’s Stanley Cup once since being given the boot and landing in San Jose, but the soft-spoken Finnish stopper tells ESPN Chicago it will feel a lot different to start against his old team in Chicago Thursday night.
John Curry probably doesn’t feel quite as strongly as Niemi about his return to Wilkes-Barre Scranton after the Penguins regular backup, Brent Johnson, pronounced himself fit to return to action after missing three games with illness and a groin injury.
Johnson returned to back up Marc-Andre Fleury Wednesday night against the Islanders, meaning he’ll get a front row seat for the Winter Classic on Saturday, when he will rock a special mask that debuted here at InGoal Magazine weeks ago.
As for consolation prizes, Curry at least gets to play in the Penguins’ home building, the sparkling new ConSol Energy Center, when Wilkes-Barre hosts rival Hershey there in a special game Thursday night. Curry, who is 11-5, with a 2.33 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and one shutout with the Baby Penguins this season, didn’t play and only got to practice there while Johnson was out of action.
The Ottawa Senators goaltending carousel continues as the ongoing injuries to would-be No.1 Pascal Leclaire creates a.