Cup finals goalies stick to different styles

Robert Luongo and Tim Thomas have drastically different styles

with one overriding similarity.

The stay-at-home goalie and the roamer are two of the NHL’s best

at their position.

At times, the approach that has worked so well fails: Thomas

vacating the net on an overtime goal that gave Vancouver a win in

Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, then Luongo filling the crease

with his full 6-foot-3 height but still letting eight goals fly by

in Boston’s win in Game 3.

But their biggest mistake would be to change their styles.

They’re not about to do that in Game 4 on Wednesday night with

the Canucks leading the Bruins 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

”I’ve been playing well all year. I think it’s worked out

pretty well for me,” Luongo said Tuesday, the day after the 8-1

loss. ”I made some adjustments before the year started, so I’m not

going to readjust again.”

The Bruins lost the first two games 1-0 and 3-2, although Thomas

played well. But when Alex Burrows charged ahead in Game 2, Thomas

went out to cut down the angle. Burrows skated around him and

continued behind the net, then tucked the puck in the far side 11

seconds into overtime.

”I have a pretty good idea of how to play goalie,” Thomas said

with a smile after the loss. ”I’m not going to be taking

suggestions or advice at this time. I’m just going to keep playing

the way I have.”

Thomas led the NHL with a 2.00 goals against average. Luongo was

second at 2.11. Thomas also topped the league with a .938 save

percentage. Luongo was third among starting goalies at .928.

That pair, plus Pekka Rinne of Nashville, are the finalists for

the Vezina Trophy. In 2009, Thomas won the award given to the NHL’s

best goaltender.

Though they may have occasional lapses, the goalies in the

finals also have the confidence of their teammates and coaches.

While the Bruins’ offensive onslaught grabbed the spotlight,

Thomas allowed just one goal on 41 shots.

”When you look at the final score, you don’t think he had any

impact on the game, but he had a big impact on the game,” Boston

coach Claude Julien said. ”When it’s 2-0, some of those big saves,

to keep it to that score until we’ve scored the third one (were

critical). If it’s a 2-1 hockey game, now you’re giving the other

team some light and it could have been a different outcome.”

Both goalies were sharp through a scoreless first period.

Then the Bruins caught a break when Andrew Ference scored the

first goal after Vancouver’s Alexander Edler broke his stick trying

to clear the puck. Mark Recchi was credited with the second goal

when his pass into the crease deflected into the net off the stick

of Canucks forward Ryan Kesler.

”They got a couple of fortunate bounces and then, all of a

sudden, the floodgates open and maybe they get a little bit of

confidence,” Luongo said.

He allowed three more goals in the last 2 1/2 minutes of the

game, but there was plenty of blame to go around – and a lot of

faith that Luongo would bounce right back.

”He’s done it all year, so that’s not a problem,” NHL scoring

champion Daniel Sedin said. ”You can’t really say it was his

fault. I think, as a team, we didn’t help him out. They scored (two

goals) on the power play and (two) on our power play, which should

not happen.”

Luongo doesn’t have to go very far back to remember the last

time he struggled.

Vancouver won the first three games of the opening round against

Chicago. One more win and the Canucks would be on to the next

round. But they lost the next two, with Luongo being pulled from

both of them. Cory Schneider started Game 6 before cramps forced

him to the bench and brought in Luongo.

Vancouver lost that game but won the seventh – behind

Luongo.

Now he has just one day off to recover.

”This is the Stanley Cup finals,” Luongo said. ”I’ve waited

my whole life to be here. I’m not going to put my head down. It’s

time to get back to work. Obviously, (Monday) night was

disappointing for all of us, but we’ve got a great opportunity

here.”

Now that the teams have faced each other three times in six

days, they might have a better idea about how to beat the opposing

goalie. But it’s not that easy, especially when they’re so

talented.

”It’s not like there’s some special book that’s floating around

on how to beat them,” Ference said. ”It’s really just about being

consistent with throwing pucks at the net. Playoff goals, you

always hear about the greasy ones and traffic in front of the net

and rebounds.

”It’s no secret. Every team would probably say the exact same

comments about our goalie. Because they’re good goalies, that’s the

only way you beat them. You don’t get them on clean shots from the

outside.”

Not very often anyway, even after a horrible game like the one

Luongo must bounce back from.

”This is part of goaltending and you have to have a short

memory. You can’t dwell on what happened,” he said. ”It might

even be easier to bounce back from a game like (Monday) night

realizing that we didn’t have our best game and we just need to

bring it.”