Monday, March 1, 2010

For All the Wrong Reasons

My brother said to me yesterday, "If Canada wins, everyone will think Luongo is a great goalie...for all the wrong reasons."

Sure enough, there are lots of articles out there today about how Roberto Luongo has overcome his demons and gone from choker to clutch in the last six days. Take this one from, for example, that is titled "Luongo now has proof that he's among the game's elite."

What was this proof? Was it the fact that Luongo has the highest save percentage of any goalie in the league with 250+ games played since he broke in as a rookie in 1999-00? Is it that he appears headed towards his ninth consecutive year with an even strength save percentage of .925 or better? Perhaps it was 51 career shutouts, despite playing most of his career in the high shots against environment of New York and Florida? Or being named as one of the top 2 goalies for the best hockey-playing country in the world in the last four best-on-best international tournaments? Maybe the journalist was convinced by Mike Babcock, who pointed out last week that Luongo's bank account shows he is one of the highest-paid goalies in the league?

Nope. It was that the highest-scoring team in the NHL era of the Olympics won the gold medal with Luongo in net. It's amazing how one game can have such a big effect on opinion, either for the good (gold medal win) or the bad (game 6 vs. Chicago).

I did think that Luongo coped very well with the intense pressure of a country that expected and demanded the gold medal. He kept saying how much fun he was having, and clearly relished the moment. He also managed to steer clear of the pitfall that caught other top goalies like Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov and Henrik Lundqvist, that one poor game that helped sink their team's chances of victory. But I don't think Luongo was really a difference-maker during the Olympics, at least not in the same way Ryan Miller and at times Jonas Hiller were.

Luongo's performance in Vancouver was actually pretty reminiscent of Martin Brodeur's play in 2002. Sorry for being the hundredth person to bring you that completely unoriginal thought, but that doesn't make it any less true. They both began as the team's #2 option, they both never really stood on their heads for any particular game, they both received attention for a big save in a 3-2 game (Luongo on Demitra, Brodeur on Brett Hull), and they both might have saved their best game of the tournament until last, where they gave up two goals in the gold medal game against the United States.

The tournament stats definitely share a resemblance:

Brodeur, 2002: 4-0-1, 1.80, .917
Luongo, 2010: 5-0-0, 1.76, .927

For my money, Patrick Roy still owns the best Olympic performance by a Canadian NHL goalie. Despite that, St. Patrick came home without any medal at all. Goaltending can have a big impact in a short tournament, but there is a very good reason why 20 other players also get to bring home the gold.

I'm interested to see if Luongo picks up the same post-Olympic gold medal "bounce" in public perception and award voting that Martin Brodeur did in 2002. No doubt there will still be a small element out there that will keep doubting the Vancouver goalie until his team achieves some more NHL postseason success, but this year's Canucks squad is probably the best team he has ever played on. Luongo has a special opportunity this season to completely change the way the average hockey fan thinks about him. Even if it is for all the wrong reasons.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you admit Luongo didn't carry these Olympics. He was decent, but Miller was far better. Maybe you'll start to see Bobby Lou isn't quite as great as the hype after all.

David HUtchison said...

I like your analysis...but to anonymous, sure Miller was fantastic, but Lou didn't have to be. It's also about the opportunities presented. He did a great job, but his team didn't need him to shoulder the same burden that Miller did. That shouldn't diminish his accomplishment or his performance.

Koz said...

Pretty accurate summary of opinion here.

What about Brodeur? Does it take off any shine? Expose any of what you frequently point out here? Or does it get explained away or otherwise ignored/forgotten?

Statman said...

"He [Luongo] did a great job, but his team didn't need him to shoulder the same burden that Miller did. That shouldn't diminish his accomplishment or his performance."

aka the hugely overrated 'he made the saves when he had to' argument...

Agent Orange said...

David HUtchison said...

"That shouldn't diminish his accomplishment or his performance."

The major point of this blog is that it should...

Luongo winning on this team is the same situation as guys like Martin Brodeur, Grant Fuhr, Billy Smith, Chris Osgood etc winning and getting a good reputation for it.

I also think its the point CG is trying to make with this point.

Luongo wasn't dominating. He didn't go out and take over games and win the gold for Canada. Luongo was on the best team in the tournament. There wasn't a single game where he had to be the best goalie. In fact I would say he was out-played by the goalie at the other end in the last 2 games.

I'm not an expert but I watched all of the playoff games and most of the qualifiers (all US/Canada games). From what I saw I would rank the top 4 goalies as follows.

1) Miller
2) Vokoun
3) Hiller
4) Luongo

Aside from the Russia game I didn't really see Luongo out-play the opposing goalie in a meaningful game, and he wasn't dominating against Russia. Nabakov was just bad.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

One game shouldn't ever change anything, for good or for bad. I don't see Brodeur or Luongo any differently than I did two weeks ago.

Lawrence said...

I don't know if I'm agreeing or disagreeing here so you decide.

This I agree with: "One game shouldn't ever change anything, for good or for bad. I don't see Brodeur or Luongo any differently than I did two weeks ago."

I think this applies to Kiprusoff as well. He got shelled vs the US in a game in which the Fins still hadn't removed their skate-guards by the time he was pulled.

The part I disagree with is the idea of "one game" not changing ideas with goalies, when those "one games" keep happening time and time again.

Sure, Luongo winning gold is his own "Russells Teapot" now that he has it, but that doesn't change the fact that Luongo still pulled the same typical Luo-isms in the game.

You guys are probably sitting there going "Oh, here comes the hate." but I don't hate Luongo. I call it how I see it, and I keep seeing "it" time and time again.

The wins vs Norway and Germany are meaningless in terms of assessing Luo. They were guaranteed wins.

Vs. Slovakia, he is AGAIN, playing through his nerves. He's too deep in the net most shots, he's fighting the puck. He chips a goal into his own net, ramping it up his stick, off his leg and into the net. This goal changed the game for the Slovaks, and for Team Canada. Sure he won, but he didn't do anyone any favours with that goaltending.

VS. USA. Same deal. The US had few quality chances, then a weak one on the Kesler deflection. Sure, it's deflected, but the L-R angle didn't change 1 degree. He should be behind the puck, and it should be routine. In the cafe I was in...EVERY single person groaned at that goal. The same reaction they had in the Slovakia game.

Then the no-catch "eject-button" glove just seconds before the tying goal, leads to the _ _ _ fire drill and the US ties it up.

Luo plays with nerves, and it shows. Always has, always will. We won, I'm happy about that. If I have to take any goalie from that tournament, I easily take Miller, and Vokoun before Luo. I still consider Kiprusoff, Hiller and Brodeur before Luo.

I didn't need to see one more game to change my opinion for the good or the bad.

Lawrence said...

Oh I forgot I wanted to point out your bias (or hyperbole).

CG:"Perhaps it was 51 career shutouts, despite playing most of his career in the high shots against environment of New York and Florida?"

This is off, Luongo played only 24 games in New York, and a total of 317 games there, with most of them being pre-lock-out. He's played 255 games in Vancouver, and 330 since the lockout. If you count a 55%-45% split "most" then I guess that's true.

I would say he's played "half" of his career in higher shot environments. He averaged 30.83 shots pre-lockout, he's averaged 29.32 since.

Since the lockout in his now lower SA environment he has a .9181 sv%.

By comparison, Tomas Vokoun, who has played for the same organization, the Panthers, for "most" of his time since the lock-out, has averaged 31.93 sa/game. This should be stressed to "epically high" by the standards set out here. Vokoun has also averaged a .9227 sv% in that period.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

I don't think it's hating to criticize Luongo for the first goal against Slovakia or the first one against the U.S., I was groaning along with you on those ones as well.

Luongo did appear to show nerves at times, but other times I thought he seemed pretty confident. The softie against Slovakia wasn't because of nerves, it was him cheating off the post. Luongo also switched catching gloves during the Olympics because of IIHF rules, which might explain why he bobbled a few pucks.

The only thing I meant with that New York/Florida comment was that his shutout total would be higher if he played on a good team for his entire career. In New York/Florida Luongo got a shutout every 12.6 games. In Vancouver he's blanked the opposition once every 10.7 games.

By the way, I'm a fan of Vokoun as well, but you have to take league average into account when you are comparing pre-lockout and post-lockout shot totals. From 1999-00 to 2003-04 the league average shots per game was 27.5. Post-lockout it's 29.3. Relative to league average Luongo faced a higher shots against level in Florida than Vokoun.

nightfly said...

The part I disagree with is the idea of "one game" not changing ideas with goalies, when those "one games" keep happening time and time again.

Dear, oh dear... Lawrence!

I'm a goalie, but I'm a writer first... by definition, if "one game" happends "time and time again" then it is NOT just one game, it's a lot of them. If you think that one game is a microcosm of a player's general career, then you are judging that goalie the same way that CG is.

To judge by one game would be saying, "Gee, I thought this guy was horrible, but he shut out Pittsburgh with 45 saves, I guess I was wrong!" What you seem to be saying is "Gee, I didn't think he was all that great to begin with, and that last game was typical with the soft goal and the shaky technique."

That being said, I will add that I don't hold superior teams against the goalie in question as much as some here. I've been behind dominant sides and behind glorified traffic cones... I once faced 87 shots in a regulation-time game, and I've also had games in the single digits. If you want to think the other guy outplayed me when I was hanging around watching him get tattooed, I won't argue, but I fail to see how that's my fault. I can only stop the shots I see, and if I do that I've done my job, even if it wasn't all that hard sometimes. At other times it's been incredibly difficult and I've lost by five goals, none of which could be considered soft or "my fault," and at the end of the day it's still a five-goal loss. There's only so good a guy can feel with that sort of a number sitting up on the scoreboard.

Miller was clearly superior in this tournament; Luongo doesn't have to apologize to anyone for winning with such an amazing team in front of him, however. It could have been worse - he could have lost. I think parts of Vancouver would still be burning if that had happened.

Lawrence said...

Nightfly: I honestly don't have any idea what your talking about.

First, neither CG or I judge goalies solely on one game I'm not sure where you get this from:

If you think that one game is a microcosm of a player's general career, then you are judging that goalie the same way that CG is."

My point is that the "one-game" defense is used all the time and I equated it to a 'Russel's Teapot'. In that, when a goalie who plays extremely well over a large duration of games suffers with poor performances in high-pressure or elimination games, the response is often "Oh, whatever, it's only one game, dude is awesome in pre-season and all-star games and 60% of the regular season."

However, when you watch a goalie struggle frequently in those high pressure games, then it is something that is more than a 'one-game syndrome' so in my mind the 'one-game' defense need not apply.


And not to nitpick, but as a goalie you should know that the statement "I can only stop the shots I see" is entirely false, or you're letting in too many shots you should have saved based on solid positioning alone.


"Luongo doesn't have to apologize to anyone for winning with such an amazing team in front of him."

Of course Luongo doesn't have to apologize for winning with an amazing team, but he does have to apologize for making the game closer than it needed be, and he certainly does have to apologize when he loses games based on a soft performance with an amazing team in front of him.

As far as I'm concerned, and as a goalie, you should never have a performance in an elimination game, or a next to elimination game with a sv% of less than ~.925. If you do, you owe your team an apology.

nightfly said...

Lawrence, I'm flattered that you think I can stop 92.5% of any and everything anyone has ever fired at my net in an elimination game. The sad truth is, "never" is simply impossible. All the great goalies have had games where they could not do that: Roy, Hasek, Belfour, et als. Given enough deflections, breakaways, and odd-man rushes, a guy can lose stopping 30 of 33 in a terrific performance. Given that most of the leagues and tournatments I've played in have single-elimination playoffs, it only takes one such game to send a team home. FWIW I have enough dustcatchers at home to testify that I generally do well enough.

("Only stop the shots I see," by the way, is an expression, not the literal truth - it means I can't make thirty saves on twenty shots, that there are games I don't have to steal, and that shouldn't be a knock on me. But it's not "entirely false" even in the literal sense. If positioning were the be-all end-all, then why bother screening the keeper? If he can't see it, it has a much higher chance of going in, even if he's positioned well. It's kind of important to catch at least a glimpse of the shot.)

My point, in any case, started with your grammar (and I note that it hasn't improved - "what your talking about," ugh). "One game" that happens all the time is not one game.

My point is that the "one-game" defense is used all the time and I equated it to a 'Russel's Teapot'. In that, when a goalie who plays extremely well over a large duration of games suffers with poor performances in high-pressure or elimination games, the response is often "Oh, whatever, it's only one game, dude is awesome in pre-season and all-star games and 60% of the regular season."

However, when you watch a goalie struggle frequently in those high pressure games, then it is something that is more than a 'one-game syndrome' so in my mind the 'one-game' defense need not apply.

Now, had you said all that in the first place it would have been a lot clearer. I might still disagree with you: very few players outperform their regular-season stats in playoffs. There are fewer games (small sample size) amd those games are generally against much tougher opponents. A team that wins two-thirds of its games for six years probably won't win two-thirds of the Stanley Cups; they may not even win two-thirds of their playoff rounds. Even if their goalie has a bad game now and again, that also doesn't mean that they're suddenly poor under pressure; it likely means that their opponents outplayed him. It's not realistic to expect that even a "clutch" goalie is going to always play magnificent hockey in every tough situation.

I mean, I do see your point about Luongo, I don't even necessarily disagree about him, but I do think you may be holding him to an unrealistic standard.

Agent Orange said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Agent Orange said...

nightfly. I'm not usually one to nitpick on someones grammar/spelling/typing/whatever on something as casual as an online message board but if you are going to do so please at least proof-read your posts.

I'm not sure what was so confusing about Lawrence's post. The knock on Lou has always been that he doesn't seem to perform at his typical level in very important games. Usually the response to this is "its only one game."

I agree with you that you shouldn't hold it against a goalie that he plays for a strong team but at some point those goalies have to steal a big game. If Lou had done that with a big time performance the last 2 games of the Olympics wouldn't have been nail-biters.

I'll concede that Luongo hasn't had a lot of opportunities to do so but at some point he has to put together a big game when its all on the line to be considered the best.

When you are one of the highest paid goalies in the NHL you will most likely have to out-play the guy at the other end to win.

He just hasn't done that outside of the first round at this point. Even though he has a gold medal.

nightfly said...

AO - fair enough. "Tournatments" is pretty funny. Didn't find anything else, and I wish you'd have pointed out what you saw. It honestly bugs me a lot when I screw stuff up.

Regarding Lawrence's point... I think he explained it better the second time, as I quoted. At first I couldn't tell if he disagreed or agreed with CG, and to be fair, he started out by saying the very same thing well up the thread. It seemed to me in the end that he was having it both ways. Once he replied I got it.

(word verification - "askedner" - an online grammar help column. Edner is kind of a jerk about it, though.)

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

"he certainly does have to apologize when he loses games based on a soft performance with an amazing team in front of him."

If that had ever happened, then yes I'd agree that Luongo would have to apologize for it. Can you point out any occasion when Luongo did this? Luongo won the 2010 gold medal, he won the world championships, he won the semifinal game at the 2004 World Cup of hockey. The only time he's ever lost a game in a best-on-best international tournament was a 2-0 loss against Finland in Turin, despite a .933 save percentage.

Turning to the NHL playoffs, he was terrific twice in first round series wins,and he had a .930 save percentage in 2007 against a significantly superior opponent in the eventual Cup champion Ducks.

You keep saying it's not just one game, but I'm not convinced. It may not be literally just one game, but it sure looks like there is one particular game six that is weighted far above every other game that Luongo has played. In his entire playoff and international career, Luongo probably has maybe 3 or 4 games that were lost because he didn't play well. How many of those does Brodeur have? Roy? Hasek? Kiprusoff? The average goalie?

I think I agree with nightfly that your standard may be a bit unrealistic. We all tend to be more lenient with goalies we like and more critical of goalies we don't like. If the standards are different, then of course our perceptions and evaluations will follow from that.

Agent Orange said...

Luongo has only lost one game in a best on best tournament.

Playing for Canada. Who likely was the favorite against all their opponents in those games.

How were the 2007 Ducks so vastly superior to the Canucks? The Ducks had 5 more standing points and 1 less win.

Luongo has never won a series in which his team didn't have home ice advantage. Isn't that something you usually knock Roy for?

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Canada has won two-thirds of their games against the other top hockey playing countries in best-on-best tournaments since 1996 (source). Against that same competition, Luongo is 4-1. He's also 4-1-1 against those same countries in world championships. I don't rate guys based on wins, but for those that do I don't see much to hammer Luongo for. If you want to say he was shaky in those wins then you can do that, but that's a different argument and his overall stats are pretty good as well.

The 2007 Ducks were obviously better than the Canucks, in their head-to-head series and overall. The Ducks outshot the Canucks 198-155. Vancouver struggled to beat Dallas in 7, while Anaheim went 12-4 against their other playoff opponents, two of whom were teams that were better than Vancouver.

Look at the goal differential:

Anaheim: 254 GF, 198 GA, +56
Vancouver: 209 GF, 197 GA, +12

If Luongo never wins a playoff series in his career against a better team, then that might be a reason to criticize him. But it's way too early to knock him because he and his team haven't got it done yet in only two tries.

Agent Orange said...

Is the 4-1-1 including this Olympics?

In the 2006-2007 season the top 7 seeds in the west were separated by 9 standings points (113-104) and 3 wins (51-48).

Anaheim and their opponents laid out in the following manner

ANA: 110 pts 48 wins +50 gs
MIN: 104 pts 48 wins +44 gs
VAN: 105 pts 49 wins +21 gs
DET: 113 pts 50 wins +55 gs
OTT: 105 pts 48 wins +67 gs

(since I pulled all the teams I left in EN goals so the +/- might be a little off).

It seems like you are putting a lot of stock in the GF/GA number. I think this is a little deceiving. Personally I prefer my team to win games, not lose close.

Over the course of an 82 game season I would expect to see strength of schedule effects fall out and would have a lot more confidence comparing win numbers. If my team loses 2-1 or 10-1 I don't really care because they lost.

For the record Dallas was a 107 pt team with 50 wins.

As for the shots the number is pretty telling. You have me convinced that Vancouver was vastly out-matched... in game 5.

games 1-4 134-128 +6 Ana
game 5 64-27

Through the series Giggy had a 0.948 sv% where as Lou had a 0.930 sv%.

The series was without a doubt a goalie duel but Giggy beat Lou heads up. Lou was better in game 5 until he stopped paying attention to the play on the game winning goal.

The point here is in the NHL its very unlikely you are going to play a vastly superior team as a #3 seed in the playoffs.

Again as one of the highest paid goalies in the NHL we should expect for Luongo's teams to have unfavorable skater match-ups.

Luongo's cap number is something like $5-6 million. If we assume $5 and compare him to a guy who makes $2 mill thats $500,000 more I get under the cap per defenseman.

Luongo should expect to have a harder job. Comes with the paycheck. As a result it should be reasonable to expect him to single-handedly win some games (I understand that a goalie will never win a game by himself, its a figure of speech).

Agent Orange said...

"Is the 4-1-1 including this Olympics?"

Looking back at your content post I assume not.

The 5-0 has been covered.

2 games were basically freebies.

Game against Russia Nabokov gave away.

US/Slovakia games were closer than they should have been because Luongo gave up soft goals.

I don't know the stats/performances from the other games.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

GF/GA is a better predictor of future success for a team than their win/loss record, which is heavily influenced by luck. Teams that blow out the opposition are generally better than teams that have won a lot of close games.

I also like to use my win threshold stat, which since the lockout has been better at predicting the winner of playoff series than the teams' actual wins and losses. In 2006-07, Vancouver was .909 (19th in the league) while Anaheim was .887 (5th). The Canucks just weren't that good of a team that year, they had a good goalie and were fortunate enough to win a lot of close games and games in OT.

That showed itself in the playoffs. Anaheim had the clear edge in scoring chances and was a much better offensive team. Giguere was good, but the Canucks scorers were not very dangerous and Anaheim was playing great defence in front of him. Giguere's save percentage was actually lower than Turco's against the Canucks in round one. Meanwhile, the Ducks shot 9.9% against everyone else in the playoffs but just 7.0% against Luongo.

Having said all that, it still doesn't even matter. It's ridiculous to microanalyze a guy over such a small sample size. Even if Luongo was bad at the Olympics (he wasn't) and bad in 2007 against Anaheim (he wasn't), that's not nearly enough games to matter for a guy who played his 600th NHL regular season game tonight. Give any goalie multiple shots at the playoffs, and they'll have some great series and some forgettable series.

Luongo is just a very good goalie, he's not Hasek in his prime. There's no reason to expect him to never let in a soft goal in international matches or to always beat superior opponents in the playoffs. All goalies frequently let in soft goals and all goalies usually lose to better teams in the playoffs. Apply a reasonable standard and he comes out well, and that's all there is to it.

Agent Orange said...

Do you have data which suggests the scoring chanced were as loop-sided in games 1-4 as you suggest?

I have a hard time believing. The canucks were vastly out-classed in the first 4 games when they were out-shot by 6 and out-scored by 5.

The difference between Turco and Giguere was 0.004. In a playoff series this is equivilent to 1 goal to a high shots allowed team.

I'm not saying Luongo is bad. I'm only asking that given the information we have to work with you apply the same critique to him that you do to other guys.

My expectation is that the higest paid guy at a given position should outplay his counterpart.

My expectation is that the "best in the world" at a given position should out outplay his counterpart.

Not just in the regular season but in the playoffs as well.

To this point Luongo hasn't done that in the playoffs.

Bruce said...

Interesting discussion.

All goalies frequently let in soft goals and all goalies usually lose to better teams in the playoffs. Apply a reasonable standard and he comes out well, and that's all there is to it.

Is it a reasonable standard to expect him to "steal" a playoff series at least once in his storied career? I mean in either the figurative sense or the technical one of starting a series on the road and winning it. Marty Brodeur did that four times in 1995 ... Gigeure did it three series in a row in 2003 and again against Detroit in 2007, and in the first case he was clearly the difference in those series with his spectacular play. Same goes for Roloson in 2006 for that matter.

Roberto Luongo has yet to do it even once. Which surely is one reason he's having trouble convincing a certain segment of the viewership that he's truly elite.

Luongo's cap number is something like $5-6 million.

It's actually $6.75 MM. His salary is $7.5 MM this season, and balloons to $10 MM next season, although his cap hit is actually reduced due to one of those absurd retirement contracts that pays him a million to be a goalie coach in 2021 or something. While it's just fine to see a top goalie earn top dollar, I nonetheless agree with Agent Orange that this increases the weight of expectations. The big money player needs to be a difference maker.

In the Olympics I thought Luongo was fighting the puck pretty much throughout. He is one hell of a stopper and was getting a piece of pretty much everything, but there was often no telling where the disc might bounce after that. I wasn't overly impressed with either his rebound control or his puckhandling, both of which were sometimes OK with all-too-frequent occasions of "why there?" or "why at all?" Crossed up his defenceman more than once, leading to more own-zone time for Canada.

That said, Brodeur had a memorably bad game against USA in that respect, starting from the very first sequence and deteriorating from there. By far the worst game I've ever seen him have from a "controlling the game" perspective, so what should have been his one significant edge over BobbiLu, wasn't. Who knows, next game probably would have been different but I didn't disagree with the switch.

What I did disagree with was how huge segments of the media just turned on Brodeur like a pack of wolves, and started throwing around snide comments about "pulling a Brodeur" or some such meaning a goalie playing a shitty game. What a ridiculous thing to say about a guy who has played very few of those over a career that spans 1237 NHL games and 28 more for his country. He had one bad game, it wasn't an elimination game, and in the end he too was an Olympic gold medallist. For the second time. What a loser.

The Swedish media did the same thing to Tommy Salo in 2002, eight years after he too won an Olympic gold medal for his country, and that rankled me in the exact same manner.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Agent Orange:

As far as I can tell I am applying the same critique to Luongo as I do to other guys. If I'm not, please explain how. I'm not hyping up Ward or Fleury, or criticizing Vokoun or Lundqvist because of their lack of playoff success. As with all goalies, I don't worry about a couple of playoff series, because they are virtually meaningless. I look at a large sample size to evaluate results.

As far as the 2007 series against Anaheim, Hockey Numbers has a shot quality analysis of the series, and explains why according to Alan Ryder's PC system Luongo deserved the Conn Smythe in 2007. The only two games that were lopsided were games one and games five, but throughout Anaheim was the better team.

I wouldn't say Luongo outplayed Giguere in that series, but I also don't think Giguere outplayed Luongo. I'd say the exact same thing about Khabibulin in the Chicago series.

That still may not meet your expectations, but again, no goalie has ever lived who always outplayed the guy at the other end of the rink in every game or even every playoff series. It's even harder to do that than ever today with the depth of goaltending at the NHL level. That's why I keep emphasizing looking at the big picture, evaluating goalies over several seasons' worth of results, and not getting hung up on a playoff run here or there, whether it be good or bad.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...


It is not at all unreasonable to expect Luongo to steal a playoff series at least once in his career. But the list of goalies who failed to win a series that they started on the road in the playoffs in their first two tries is long and distinguished. I'd say this year is the first time Luongo has ever played on a real Cup contender. If he plays poorly over the next couple of playoffs, then I think he'll start to have something to answer for.

What I do think is somewhat unreasonable is crediting Brodeur for four series stolen in 1994-95 while not crediting Luongo with any. I don't think it's too hard to make the case that Luongo has already beaten a better opponent in the playoffs. The 2007 Dallas Stars had more points in the standings than the Canucks, a better goal differential and a lower win threshold. Dallas outshot Vancouver in the series, their goalie had a .952 save percentage and they still lost. Obviously the Canucks' goalie must have had something to do with that, and I don't know why he wouldn't get credit simply because of an NHL standings quirk that slots the division winners in the top 3 spots.

As far as the media reaction to the first Canada-USA game, people always overreact to losses and games in the spotlight are magnified. I mean one bad playoff game made Roberto Luongo a choker in the eyes of a good portion of these guys, I think anyone would get heat for playing one of their worst games against the rival U.S. team in front of one of the largest television audiences in Canadian history in a tournament that the whole country was demanding that they win.

Brodeur's reputation probably saved it from being even worse, I can't imagine they would have been any kinder if Luongo was in that situation. Everybody has bad days, and that's a concept that they don't seem to grasp. There's a reason that a lot of my posts are bashing the mainstream media.

Anonymous said...

What is so hard about admitting that Luongo has a habit of nerves? Yes, he is a good goalie, but does not have a good record of holding it together when all is on the line, with the sole exception of the 2007 G5 against the Ducks.

--In the stretch of 2008 (SEVERAL games), he totally collapsed.
--In game 6 against Chicago in 2009, he completely fell apart despite the fact that Vancouver was completely dominating, and was leading going into the third period.
--In these Olympics, he gave up some weak goals, and only maintained a decent SP because of the total and utter superiority of Team Canada protecting him.

It's not fair to compare him today to Brodeur today. Brodeur is aging and past his prime. What is Bobby Lou's excuse?

It is for the above that I do not think Luongo approaches, at the moment, the likes of Hasek, Roy, Brodeur, Giguere, etc., not to mention Vokoun.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Anonymous: Why not? Because I don't think there is evidence to support it.

What you're doing is called cherry-picking data. You like Giguere, so you see the 2003 playoffs as a representative sample for him. When you think of Luongo, you apparently associate him strongly with game 6 against Chicago. You aren't fairly comparing the two as a result.

I could just as easily do what you are doing in the opposite direction, and argue that Luongo has an amazing record of holding it together when all is on the line, with the sole exception of the 2009 G6 against the Hawks:

- twice won the QMJHL championship as a junior
- gold medal at the 2003 and 2004 world championships
- won 2004 World Cup semifinal against the Czechs
- went 19-6-3, 2.18, .923 down the stretch in 2006-07 to lead the Canucks to the division title
- 1.88 career playoff GAA and .937 career playoff save percentage in all games other than game 6 against Chicago
- .927 save percentage in the 2010 Olympics, saved the game against Slovakia by robbing Demitra, made several big saves in the final including a stop on Pavelski in OT just before Crosby's game-winner

My list above is just as flawed as your list is. The proper list contains all of my bullet points and all of yours, not just the ones that prove one viewpoint or another. That's why I keep talking about having an appropriate standard for comparison. Luongo let in a few soft goals at the Olympics? Of course he did. How many did Nabokov, Kiprusoff, Miller, Lundqvist, Brodeur, Halak, Hiller and Vokoun let in? All of them let in a few they wanted back as well. That's just a part of goaltending. When you turn a microscope on any goalie's mistakes, you can make them look bad. Even more so when you aren't doing the same thing for everyone else.

You can't just consider what goalies did, you have to consider how many chances they had. How many great playoff runs out of how many playoff runs, period? Giguere had one amazing playoff run, and one very good one. How did the other ones go? Brodeur had a few great playoffs, absolutely. He's also been knocked out in the first round six times, and he and his teammates have failed to advance past the second round 9 times in 14 career playoff seasons. If you randomly select two playoff seasons for Brodeur, there's a 41% chance that he didn't get past the second round in either of them, and in most of those years he was playing on the higher-seeded team. So how can we be at all sure that Luongo isn't a "playoff goalie" because he didn't make it past the second round in two tries?

Anonymous said...

Leaving all else aside, will you or will you not agree that Game 6 against the Chicago Hawks was entirely his fault?

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

What does "entirely his fault" mean? Does it mean that everyone else on his team played flawlessly and deserved to win in a blowout? Or does it mean that if Luongo played average the team would likely have won?

I'd certainly disagree with the first one, but the second one is at least arguable. Five goals does usually win you the game, but the way Vancouver's defence played Luongo was going to let in at least 3 or 4 goals anyway even if he was on his game, there were just that many high-quality scoring chances and good shots taken by Chicago shooters on those chances. Once again, though, one game is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

You are confusing game 6 with the entire series. Yes, Vancouver as a team was underwhelming the whole series, but not in game 6. Vancouver COMPLETELY dominated the whole game, especially the third period where they outshot Chicago 2-1. Luongo simply did NOT face a flurry of great shots in the final period; that's just fiction.

Why do you condemn Martin Brodeur for his two late goals against Carolina in game 7 (which were his fault, although NJ was not dominating Carolina the way Vancouver was Chicago) but find every reason to make excuses for Bobby Lou?

By the way, my guess is that if Luo had to play for a weak Olympic team like Switzerland or even just a less-elite one like the United States or Russia, he'd have had a sub-.890 save percentage for the Olympics. How's that for team effects?

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Now we're getting into a subjective debate about who dominated who, something that's probably destined to go around in circles forever. I disagree with your assessment and I'd be frankly amazed if you could find an analysis of that game anywhere that was not heavily critical of Vancouver's defensive play, but I don't even want to keep debating this point, because it is minutiae.

Forget focusing on the trees instead of the forest, this is focusing on a single tree and not even caring about the rest of the forest. The third period against Chicago is 1% of Luongo's playoff career and 0.06% of his entire NHL career. Similarly, Brodeur's last 2 minutes against Carolina is 0.02% of his playoff career. They are tiny, insignificant parts of a greater whole, and I'm not even going to bother arguing about either.

I've never "condemned" Brodeur for letting in two against Carolina. I've said that it doesn't matter at all in the big picture, and that's what I'll still tell you right now. I may have brought it up in the context of a few posts or comments, sure, but only in response to people trying to tell me that Brodeur is a tremendous clutch winner and that's why he should be preferred over other goalies.

Once again, their argument is that wins and team success define a goalie, and that goalies who win a lot are better because they perform better when it counts. If that's your argument, then counterexamples that disprove that point are fair game. Because when you actually look at it, you'll find that every goalie has bad games, even in important series or situations. That's just the reality of goaltending, and it's one of the reasons why it is dumb to measure individuals by team results.

My argument is that individual goalie performance (best expressed by Sv%) over the long haul is what matters. Therefore individual games don't matter any more than their contribution to the whole. I don't really care that Luongo let in 7 goals. That game counts just as much as the one against Anaheim where he stopped 56 of 58, just as much as game one against the Ducks where he let in 5 and got pulled, just as much as game 7 against Dallas, or the one where Vancouver blew a 3 goal lead against Chicago, or any of the games where he was great against St. Louis, etc. etc. Then there's his regular season play, which over entire careers is highly correlated with playoff performance, which should also strongly inform our opinion and further cut any individual playoff game into an even tinier fraction of the overall pie.

Again, consistency is the key. Look at the big picture. You don't get to say that one guy's bad games don't count because he has a Cup or a Smythe or whatever, while another guy's good games don't count because he doesn't have any hardware. That's nothing but pure bias, and that's the attitude that I founded this site to argue against and that I dedicate virtually every post towards opposing.

You think Luongo would go from .927 to .890 because of team effects if he was American? I'd say that's greatly underestimating the parity among the top teams in international hockey, but maybe it would have happened, I don't know for sure. Maybe he would have been shelled. Does that really matter to you? Is Brodeur a choker because he had an .867 save percentage behind the same defence as Luongo? If my next post is about Miikka Kiprusoff, are you going to be commenting that he's a choker who can't handle the pressure because of that semifinal against the U.S.? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then I think you're relying on the wrong reasons that I talked about in the above post.

Anonymous said...

" Is Brodeur a choker because he had an .867 save percentage behind the same defence as Luongo?"

Brodeur is really getting up there in years and it's not fair to compare him to Luongo now. It would be like comparing Dominik Hasek in 2007 to Luongo in 2007.

"If my next post is about Miikka Kiprusoff, are you going to be commenting that he's a choker who can't handle the pressure because of that semifinal against the U.S.?"

No, because he isn't promoted as the greatest goaltender in the world, and you don't devote about 33% of your entire blog to hyping him up.

"I disagree with your assessment and I'd be frankly amazed if you could find an analysis of that game anywhere that was not heavily critical of Vancouver's defensive play"

Please look up the boxscore for it, and tell me the stats for the game (and the shot totals and scoring chances for the third period in particular).

You yourself have admitted that he could have saved three or four of those goals. From what I recall of the game highlights, no more than three of those goals were completely unstoppable.

nightfly said...

Anon - I think you're still missing the point, which is fairly simple: Luongo had a bad period. He isn't a bad goalie who's somehow managed to roll up a career .919 sv% behind some fairly porous squads. He's a very good goalie who had a rough patch in a big game against Chicago. His true talent is much more likely to be the .919 guy and much less likely the shaky-in-one-period guy. That's the whole point.

Further, it's a point that applies to everyone. Henrik Lundqvist looked horrible last night, especially in the second. I still can't believe his stance was so awkward against Johnson on his goal. Even then, EJ happened to hit a teeny moving hole in that awkward stance. It could just as easily have hit the side of the net, or Lundqvist's chest. And if Conklin doesn't get a little taste of Gaborik's slot shot off the turnover, he may still have scraped by with a tie or a win.

Is Ty Conklin suddenly a better goalie than Henrik Lundqvist? He's won all those Winter Classics! Clutchity clutch!!!1!one!

It's only human to look at a guy like Luongo and come up with a rational explanation for why a .919 sv% guy can have such an awful period in such an important spot. It must mean something... well, it means that he's human too. It may well be that he gets the yips; it may be that he's only an .890 guy in high-leverage spots. That's human, too. But it could just be random. Even an .890 guy can have a 19-save overtime to win an important game. Doesn't necessarily make him more clutch than the .919 guy who had a 5-8 third period to lose.