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Cullen: Luongo bounces back, blanks Bruins

Scott Cullen
6/11/2011 12:31:41 AM
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Roberto Luongo stopped all 31 shots he faced and Maxim Lapierre scored the game's only goal to move the Vancouver Canucks within one game of winning the Stanley Cup.

Heavily-criticized after allowing a dozen goals on 58 shots in two games in Boston, Luongo continued his dominance at home. He's now allowed two goals in three home games in this series.

As the crowd in Vancouver cheered when Luongo was pulled from the Vancouver goal in Game Four then, as fans are wont to do, cheered Luongo when he was named first star of Game Five after posting his third playoff shutout, the reaction online seemed be that any criticism of Luongo was unjustified.

While there's no denying Luongo's credentials, the difference between regular season and playoff results is what fuels the criticism. Over the last decade, Luongo ranks fourth among goaltenders (with at least 100 games played) in regular season save percentage at .920.

In the playoffs, over that same time frame (among goaltenders with at least 20 games played), Luongo's save percentage of .919 ranks 13th and that's after the Game Five shutout.

So, there is a difference, one that was further accentuated by Luongo's troubles in Game Three and Game Four of the Cup Final and that's what brought about the critiques in the first place.

That doesn't mean that anyone but Luongo should have started Game Five and it doesn't make Luongo anything close to a bad goaltender but it's not fair to suggest that he's always performed like an elite goaltender when the chips were down.

No matter the criticism, though, Luongo did perform like a big-game goaltender Friday evening, is now a single win away from the Stanley Cup and he's doing it with a team that is giving him the bare minimum of offensive support, having scored a grand total of six goals through the first five games.

What must be maddening to the Bruins is that they've managed, for the most part, to take Vancouver's top scorers out of equation and that has left Alex Burrows and Raffi Torres as the Canucks' leading scorers in the series, with three points apiece.

Even on home ice, which allowed the Canucks to get the Sedin Twins away from Patrice Bergeron, at least some of the time, Vancouver's big guns still came up empty, but they only needed to get one past Tim Thomas.

The Canucks, led by defenceman Alexander Edler with 10, outhit the Bruins 47-27.

It's no great surprise that neither team managed to score on the power play. The Canucks are now 1-for-25 (4.0%) with the man advantage in the final, while the Bruins are 3-for-21 (14.3%) in the final, but just 8-for-82 (9.8%) over the course of the postseason.

Heading back across the continent for Game Six, the Bruins will understandably feel confident playing in front of their home fans and will have to try and duplicate the success they had in Game Three and Four so that they can force Game Seven back in Vancouver.

Despite all the histrionics -- the diving, the taunting, the whining, the interview jabs etc. -- the bottom line is that it's been a wonderfully entertaining, competitive series between two closely-matched teams.

Two more games of this, then, would be just fine, thanks.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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