After two years of heartbreak, Roberto Luongo is finally getting his chance at redemption.
Despite winning a gold medal on his home ice just over a year ago, the Canucks goaltender has heard his fair share of criticism for not getting the job done in the playoffs.
Now that he's just four wins away from a Stanley Cup, the critics are the furthest thing from his mind.
“I don't play for those people,” Luongo said. “I play for myself, for my teammates, my family and friends and for people that support me. At the end of the day I want to win a Stanley Cup and I want to do it with the guys in the locker room.”
Luongo has looked like a different player from years past. Despite looking shaky in the opening round against the dreaded Blackhawks, he's bounced back in rounds two and three, finishing off both the Predators and the Sharks in just five games and putting in a masterful 54-save performance in Game 5 against San Jose to put the Canucks in the Cup Final for the first time since 1994.
His fellow Canucks credit his compete level with allowing the team to exorcise the ghosts of past playoff failures and finally get within four wins of the franchise's first Cup.
“He never likes to lose,” said Canucks forward Alex Burrows. “You know he's going to bounce back. You know he keeps working hard on his game. He's a strong believer in hard work, so if you have those kinds of assets, normally you do good things.”
As for Luongo, he's built on those past experiences. Where the Roberto of old may have cracked under pressure, this year he's gotten better as the games have gotten more important, putting together a string of stellar performances after round one.
“You think about what you've been through to get to this point, whether it's this year or in the previous years,” he said. “It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down. The only thing that matters is how many times you get up.”
The result of that mentality has the Canucks ready to take a crack at ending a 40-year run of franchise futility.
The team has taken a team-first mentality to this year's playoff run and while the players hope Canada gets behind them, they're not about to bank on nation-wide support.
“Obviously it would be nice to bring back the Cup to Canada,” Burrows said. “But, at the same time, I didn't cheer for Calgary when they went [to the Finals], I didn't cheer for the Oilers, so I can understand the differences between every city.”
Others in the locker room are hoping that Canadians can get past their regional roots and provide a boost for the team.
“I remember when the Oilers were there and the Flames were there, I was cheering,” said Canucks forward Tanner Glass. “I was in Saskatchewan and they weren't my teams, so I hope the country's supporting us.”
Vancouver is the latest Canadian team trying to curry the nation's support in a deep playoff run.
Since the Canadiens last won the Cup in 1993, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa have all made trips to the Finals with each team coming up short.
While the support is appreciated, Glass believes that they still have to earn the victory themselves.
“As a player I don't care,” he said. “Obviously it comes from within here – from this city and this organization – so our focus is on that. But as a fan, and as a Canadian, I think they should be behind us.”