Luongo Points Canucks Toward Cup
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo has plenty of time to reflect during the seven-day break before his first Stanley Cup final starts against Boston, and his mind keeps wandering back to two moments.
The first was Game 6 of the first round against Chicago, which Luongo started on the bench after getting ventilated and pulled from the two previous games as the rival Blackhawks stormed back from a 3-0 series deficit.
``One month ago, I was sitting on the bench, and a month later I'm in the final,'' Luongo said. ``That's the first thing you think about.''
The second moment came two days later, and may have saved the season.
Luongo put on some music and took a long walk around the Vancouver seawall to clear his head.
He had gotten back into Game 6 after his usual backup, rookie Cory Schneider, cramped up badly. But Luongo lost in overtime and had less than 48 hours to refocus and move past his coach's decision to leave a goalie making $10 million this season on the bench.
He did some soul-searching before Game 7, including talking to ``brothers, family - everybody I pretty much knew.'' Then after the morning skate, he took the walk.
``Sometimes that's what it takes to put things in perspective a little bit,'' he said. ``That could have easily went sour. If I show up for that game and I'm not in the right frame of mind and we lose, all of a sudden things are a lot more chaotic. I heard (Tampa Bay goalie) Dwayne Roloson say you've got to have amnesia in this game, so that's what it's all about. You've got to forget quick.''
Luongo labeled his walk ``the main thing that got me over the hump,'' adding that he ``just listened to some music for 23 minutes and tried to get in a zone.''
It worked. Since then, Luongo is 9-3 with a .935 save percentage and 1.88 goals-against average, including a 54-save effort to eliminate San Jose last Tuesday and claim the first conference championship of his 11-year NHL career. Looking back to Game 6 of the first round, it's sometimes hard to believe.
``I'm not going to lie, it was a tough spot to be in,'' Luongo said. ``But at the end of the day, I was playing Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs and that's all it's about. Obviously there were some ups and downs before that but I was in the playoffs, playing in the NHL, so there was no reason for me to be down.''
As for the music that got him through, Luongo described it as ``some music speech that pumps me up,'' but wasn't ready to share any more than that.
``It's not Celine Dion or anything,'' he said.
QUEBEC'S TEAM?: While other Canadians debate whether the Canucks are playing for all of Canada after the Stanley Cup's 18-year absence from the country, center Maxim Lapierre is certain Vancouver is now Quebec's team - if only because its opponent is Boston, an old and bitter rival of Montreal Canadiens.
``I was raised hating the Bruins,'' said Lapierre, a native of the Montreal suburbs and one of four Canucks from Quebec. ``For sure there is a lot of people cheering back in Montreal for us. They don't really like the Bruins.''
Lapierre experienced the original-six rivalry against Boston during parts of five seasons with the Canadiens. A noted trash-talking agitator during his time in Montreal, he has since toned down his yapping - but Lapierre has undoubtedly rubbed a few Bruins the wrong way. He wasn't about to engage in a back-and-forth through the media.
``I'm not going to start a war,'' he said with a wry smile.
SCRIMMAGE TIME: With a week between playoff games, the Canucks added scrimmages to their usual practice routine.
Vancouver even went to its dressing room while the ice was cleaned after the first of two practice sessions Monday, and the winning team from the scrimmage jokingly posed for pretend photos.
``Just making sure we are sharp and treat practice like a game and ramp up the intensity level,'' said Luongo. ``Just a little to get in the game flow.''
The Canucks are hoping those situations include plenty of special teams, which they focused on after the scrimmages were over. Vancouver's power play, which was tops in the regular season, is humming along at 28.3 percent (17 for 60) in the playoffs, while the Bruins converted just 8.2 percent (5 of 61).
``Five-on-five we are pretty equal as teams, we're both good defensively, so special teams are going to be huge,'' Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said. ``If our power play can be better than theirs, it's going to win us some games.''
NOTES: Canucks D Kevin Bieksa, whose five playoff goals are one short of his total all season, left the ice during the second half of practice Monday, but coach Alain Vigneault said he would be back Tuesday. ... Vancouver C Manny Malhotra continued to practice on the fourth line after being cleared Saturday to return from a career-threatening eye injury suffered in March. Malhotra won't confirm he'll play Game 1, but said his legs and lungs are getting better every day. He appeared ready to start the series. ... C Ryan Kesler, who left Game 5 against San Jose briefly with an apparent leg injury, was back at practice Monday after staying off the ice Friday and Saturday. He said he will play Game 1, as will D Christian Ehrhoff and D Aaron Rome, who were both knocked out of Game 3 against San Jose, missing the final two games.