Roberto Luongo (left) is being replaced by Cory Schneider (right).... Or not.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Roberto Luongo's career in Vancouver was deemed over and done with by the tabloids. Cory Schneider was to start in net instead of Luongo for the must-win Game 4 of the Vancouver Canucks / Los Angeles Kings Western Conference Quarterfinal series. It was a testament, it was telling, it was evidence that the franchise was taking a new direction in net from yesterday forward.
In other words, it was a complete overreaction. Again.
It's not the first time a backup goaltender started an elimination game in the playoffs. It's not the first time a franchise goaltender was forced to ride the pine in an attempt to jump-start the effort of the rest of his team.
Yet, in a way, the drama of Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks goaltending situation is a welcome distraction from a Quarterfinal round that has made the league into a caricature; a running joke of hockey clichés where rules aren't to be enforced and everyone has been open season with no holds barred.
Instead, now with Luongo having been benched, the playoffs take an Eklund-like turn as Roberto's future is speculated upon.
Idle teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning are affected by this, as they were affected long before the end of the season, too. Schneider, Jonathan Bernier, Josh Harding, and other names have been thrown around as the next pre-eminent netminder for the Lightning (or Toronto Maple Leafs or Columbus Blue Jackets, etc) to acquire in the 2012 NHL offseason. Now, the talk turns to Lou and baseless speculation.
Because he sat, it's over. It's all over.
It takes a long memory for a Lightning fan to recall a situation like this happening in Tampa Bay, and indeed it did. Game 5 of the 2003 NHL Semi-finals between the Bolts and the New Jersey Devils. With the chips down for the Lightning - trailing the Devils 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, John Tortorella decided to sit Nikolai Khabibulin. John Grahame started, and speculation started about Khabibulin's dissatisfaction with the move and his future with the Lightning.
Of course, the difference between Nik and Roberto is Roberto's huge contract, which is the reason to jump to the conclusion Luongo is done in Vancouver - because if they can get rid of the contract, they will get rid of the contract. Or so deduction assumes.
And those basic deductions are linking the Lightning and Roberto Luongo. He may be available! Tampa Bay needs a goaltender! Yzerman had him on Team Canada in 2010! Roberto's wife is from Florida!
Never mind Tampa Bay is building for long-term contention and has its sights on a goalie that will grow with the young core. Never mind that Roberto Luongo's contract doesn't make sense for a Lightning club that's already top-heavy with contracts.
The last time a hot-shot goalie usurped his starter in the playoffs was Jaroslav Halak for the Montreal Canadiens. He was traded that off-season as the Habs decided to stick with Carey Price. That's another example of why fans and the press shouldn't jump to conclusions regarding the Canucks goaltending situation.