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Come on, Alain! Vigneault to sit Luongo

1/6/2012

BOSTON -- Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault can blame anyone he wants for the early puck drop of Saturday's 1 p.m. game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

He definitely has a point. This game features a regular-season rematch between the two teams that battled for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup last spring, and it's ridiculous that it's not a nationally televised game in the United States or in Canada.

But that doesn't give Vigneault an excuse to not start the Canucks' top goaltender, Roberto Luongo, against the Bruins. Vigneault announced Friday afternoon that local boy and former Boston College standout Cory Schneider would get the nod between the pipes.

No doubt it's a great opportunity for Schneider to play in front of family and friends. Good for Cory, but shame on Vigneault. The Vancouver coach should get whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct.

If Vigneault wants to complain about the start time, fine. Regardless, it should be up to him to give fans -- not just Bruins and Canucks fanatics, but all hockey fans -- what they want to watch and put Luongo in net. In the Stanley Cup final, the Bruins outscored the Canucks 17-3 in three games at TD Garden. Luongo was pulled in two of those games and heartily booed off the ice.

"We have two goaltenders here that we have confidence in," Vigneault said. "Every game, and we've played 41 so far, you can make a case to play one or the other. In this instance, I decided Cory would be the goaltender."

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Bruins coach Claude Julien, as usual, did not announce his starting goaltender, but it's assumed it will be the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas. He helped Boston to a 6-1 victory Wednesday at New Jersey, before fellow netminder Tuukka Rask posted a shutout Thursday at the Garden, when the Bruins completely dismantled the Calgary Flames, 9-0.

If Julien doesn't start Thomas on Saturday, shame on him, too.

Luongo admitted Friday that he wanted to start, but understands the coach's decision to start Schneider in his native Massachusetts. Well, homecomings should wait until the offseason, and Luongo should step up and tell his coach that he wants to play in this game. If Luongo had anything between his goalie pads he would have forced the situation.

"Cory's been doing a fabulous job since last year and since he's been here," Luongo said. "Whether he's been playing more, or he hasn't played in weeks, he comes in and does an unbelievable job for us, so I don't expect things to be any different tomorrow and I'm sure he's excited about playing in his hometown and he's going to give us a chance to win."

Earlier this week Thomas said he wanted to start this game, but also understands the final decision is made by Julien.

"You do want to play every game, but you don't have to, though," Thomas said. "There's room for both goalies to play games. I don't make the decision who plays what game, so I'm not going to comment on that."

Honestly, it doesn't matter which goalie plays for either team, because it should be a terrific hockey game between two talented clubs. But fans should be able to watch Thomas and Luongo go head-to-head once again.

So, sorry, fans, there will be no pumping of any tires on Saturday. You can thank Alain Vigneault for that.