It was never a stretch to predict that 2009-10 was going to be one of Roberto Luongo's most demanding hockey seasons ever. The Canucks goalie is facing the pressure of being a top candidate to start for Team Canada in his home rink at the Vancouver Olympics. And should he be Canada's goalie of choice, he would be required to play in a condensed tournament with up to seven games in 13 days.
He is also under the gun as part of a Canucks team that will eventually face a six-week, 14-game road trip come February because of the Games and is under pressure to get off to a good start because of it.
Plus the team's management and fans have not lowered their expectations after Luongo signed a 12-year, $64 million extension prior to the season.
Yet the Canucks are preparing for tonight's home opener against Columbus as a winless club. Luongo hasn't looked himself so far while surrendering losses to Calgary and Colorado. His save percentage of .857 pales next to his career average of .919. His fine goals against average from last season of 2.34 has ballooned more than a goal to 3.53.
It all adds up to a Canucks team that is 0-2 out of the gate. Granted that it is very early, but Vancouver hasn't been winless heading to its third game since 2001-02 (when the Canucks started 0-3).
It's far from time to sound the alarm bells, but the Luongo who is tending goal right now is simply not performing like the Luongo of old. The Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs last spring in the second round when the Chicago Blackhawks shelled Vancouver's captain for a shocking seven goals in the sixth and deciding game.
Luongo's slow start this year shows some similarities to his October performance one year ago. The 30-year old shut out the Flames 6-0 on opening night, and then gave up at least three goals in seven straight games while he and his team struggled to a 3-4 start. Over his past three Octobers, Luongo has posted a 10-13-0 record and a save percentage of .899.
So what lays ahead for the 30-year old? Most immediately, a trio of home games this week against the Blue Jackets, Canadiens, and Stars. And maybe a return to form that the Canucks are certainly counting on.