If the Vancouver Canucks win the Stanley Cup on Monday night, there will be considerable debate about who should win the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
After speaking to a number of media members — including a few who will be casting a vote — it appears as though Tim Thomas is the leading candidate to win the award. Even if the Bruins lose in six games, the prevailing thought is that Thomas has been the best player in the Stanley Cup final and is more deserving of the award than anyone on Vancouver’s side.
While I agree with the notion that Thomas has been the best player in the final, I’m not sure why everyone has written off Roberto Luongo for the award. In the series against Boston, the Sedin twins have struggled offensively, Ryan Kesler has been a mere shadow of his healthy self and Alex Burrows has probably taken himself out of the running with some of his antics.
But Luongo has been masterful in Vancouver’s three wins — even besting Thomas in two different games where the final score was 1-0. Anyone who can channel his inner Frank McCool like that deserves some serious accolades. And yet, nobody is talking about Luongo for the playoff MVP award because he had a couple of bad games, which I find perplexing.
Newsflash for you: Luongo hasn’t cost the Canucks any games in the Stanley Cup final. There was no way that Vancouver was winning the two games played in Boston earlier in the series. If they lost Game 3 by a score of 8-5 or 8-6, I would buy into the theory that Luongo cost them the game. But they were beaten in all facets that night.
And the same goes for the Chicago series. If the Canucks had lost 7-5 and 5-3, you could make the argument that Luongo was the sole problem. But in those two games, the Canucks were outscored 12-2 and were generally awful as a team. When it mattered most in against Chicago — in Game 7 — the Vancouver netminder was brilliant. The save on Patrick Sharp in overtime was the second-best stop in Canucks history. (Nothing will ever top Kirk McLean on Robert Reichel, right?)
In the 15 games that Vancouver has won in this post-season, here are Luongo stats:
.953 save percentage.
In the 14 games that Boston has won in the post-season, here are Thomas’ stats:
.953 save percentage
So why are Thomas’ 14 wins more impressive than Roberto Luongo’s 15? Of Luongo’s wins so far, a staggering 11 of them have been one-goal victories. That means a lot of critical saves in late-game situations for Luongo — often in the dying minutes of the third period and overtime.
As for Thomas, he’s had only six one-goal victories this spring. The Philadelphia series was such a cake-walk for Boston, as they outscored the Flyers 20-7 in a series where Thomas hardly had to make a clutch save because his offence was scoring at will.
And why does everyone forget that Thomas was very shaky in the Tampa Bay series — allowing four goals or more in four different games? Yet these same people bring up Luongo’s two bad games against Chicago and use it as an argument against him when it comes to the Conn Smythe trophy.
All you ask from your goaltender is to deliver 16 wins in a playoff year. And judging by the stats from above, Luongo has done that on 15 occasions — usually in brilliant fashion and often in tight-checking, low-scoring games. But for some reason, we are more preoccupied with his four bad starts than with his 15 good ones. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Last year, most of the voters ignored Jonathan Toews’ poor play in the Stanley Cup final, where he didn’t score a goal and registered a minus-five rating. Toews was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in a year in which there was no clear-cut favourite. The same thing happened the year before, when Evgeni Malkin claimed the prize, despite having long stretches of unproductive play.
Goalies, apparently, aren’t allowed to have that luxury. Four bad games and you are no longer a Conn Smythe candidate. It’s a double-standard that defies logic. If the goalie wins you 16 games with a save percentage over .950 in those games, shouldn’t that count for something? Especially when at least 11 of those wins are one-goal games?
I’m all for giving Tim Thomas the Conn Smythe trophy if the Boston Bruins win this series. But if Vancouver is hoisting the Stanley Cup, I hope the voters have enough sense to look at the big picture and hand Luongo another trophy as well.