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Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - Page updated at 07:00 p.m.
Goaltender mystery surrounds Vancouver Canucks entering playoffs | NHL
By Cam Cole
The Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Vancouver Canucks' No. 1 goaltender and most valuable player had to edge past the outskirts of a vast scrum of reporters surrounding Roberto Luongo to get to his locker Monday.
Cory Schneider understood, illogical as it was, that the story of the day wasn't his return to practice, or whether he would be healthy enough to play Game 1 of the best-of-seven NHL Western Conference first-round playoff series at home Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks. Rather, the issue was how Luongo was feeling ... you know, psychologically.
Schneider hadn't been on the ice with teammates — other than to walk on in a suit to accept the team's MVP award Thursday — since a week earlier when he was mysteriously hurt (the now-famous "body injury") in a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
He had been a rock down the stretch for a team bent on winning yet another Northwest Division title. And in the two games Luongo played at the end of the regular season, the Canucks had been outscored 10-3.
Monday ought to have been All About Cory.
But the egg the Canucks laid in the finale, a 7-2 loss Saturday in Edmonton, had ended up all over Luongo's face, and coach Alain Vigneault had left him in to surrender the entire converted touchdown — leading, as these things always do in a town hyper-sensitized to the ever-changing situation between the pipes, to a fairly shrill criticism on the public airwaves of Coach V's handling/mishandling of the debacle.
How could he do this to Luongo? Could he not have pulled him after the fourth goal, or the fifth?
How upset was Luongo afterward, rushing out of the room and onto the team bus in record time, without talking to reporters? How would he and Vigneault ever patch things up?
Or had the goalie himself run up the white flag at some point in the late third-period barrage, when the Oilers scored five times between the 13:17 mark and 16:52 to blow open a 2-2 tie? Was it perhaps not entirely the fault of the lineup Vigneault iced, laced with minor-leaguers, for a meaningless game?
"Yeah, I was pretty upset," Luongo said Monday of his hasty exit. "I just want to apologize for taking off on you guys. That's not my style usually, but I had a moment there and I just needed some time to myself."
It wasn't, he said, that he was upset at being left in.
"No, I was upset with myself. It's tough to get embarrassed like that. It's happened one too many times for me, and I was really fuming — and it was better for me to just sit on the bus than say some things I would have regretted later on," Luongo said.
Would he have gladly taken the hook, had Vigneault offered it?
"That's not how I play the game," Luongo said.
Vigneault did not look amused that the issue was still simmering Monday, with the playoffs two days away and no decision yet on whether Schneider can play.
"First of all, Roberto is a true professional. He's real strong mentally, and he's had some nights like the last one and he's battled back in incredible fashion," Vigneault said.
Oh, and about that other guy ...
Schneider, who is listed as day to day, seemed to handle the hourlong practice fine, but he said how it feels Tuesday (whatever "it" is) will tell the tale.
"I hate to be vague and not very specific for you guys, but that's our team policy right now," Schneider said. "I'm just doing what I'm told. I know when I was injured, but I don't know if the team wants me to let you know, so I'm not going to say."
If Schneider has no setbacks, he would have two practices and a morning skate under his belt before Game 1.
"I'd love to play," he said. "This is where the fun part of the year starts, and I've felt good about how I've been playing lately. So if I feel I'm healthy enough to do that, I will."
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