By Brian Hamilton
1:33 PM CDT, April 26, 2011
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- As per the new custom, Roberto Luongo had nothing to say following the Vancouver Canucks' pre-Game 7 morning skate. So just hours before his biggest start in this venue since the Winter Olympics gold-medal game, there was no telling whether he was in Vezina Trophy form or on the precipice of another meltdown.
No telling to everyone outside the dressing room, anyway.
"I think we're all very confident in Lu," said Canucks backup goalie Cory Schneider, who started Game 6 in Luongo's place.
"He was our best player in our first three games, and we were up 3-0. He's a competitor of the truest nature. He hates to lose, he hates being questioned, he hates all the speculation. I think he'd love nothing more than to go out and play like he has for the 60 games he has played this year and be our best player on the ice."
Undoubtedly, Luongo would love that, and Canucks coach Alain Vigneault reiterated Tuesday morning that his $10 million man will start Game 7.
But surrendering 11 goals on the last 53 shots he's seen and getting yanked in both Game 4 and Game 5 raises questions about whether Luongo is capable of being the netminder he was throughout a stellar regular season.
"Like I said a few times yesterday, there's nothing we can do about the last three games with any of our players," Vigneault said. "It's about tonight."
Indeed, the Canucks are doing their best to mute any angst Luongo may be feeling.
"He's proven that he's won the big game before and he can deal with the pressure," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "I wouldn’t say there's just focus on him. It's not his biggest game – as a team, it's our biggest game. We don't just give him all the pressure. We're focused to win this game together. If we have to win it 5-4, so be it. If we win it 1-0, that's great, too. But we're going to win or lose as a team."
Said Schneider: "He hasn't said much to me, I haven't seen him a whole lot today. He's doing his thing and getting ready and doing whatever he has to do. He doesn't need to explain it to any of us. We know he's going to be ready to go. We expect it from him every game he plays and he always delivers."
Not always, actually, but they only need him to do it once more in this series.
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