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Is Roberto Luongo a legitimate Vezina Trophy and Team Canada contender?
@ESPN_Burnside: Holy Cats! OK, that's out of my system. Watching the highlights of Florida's franchise-record 10th straight victory, a 5-1 defeat of the Buffalo Sabres, made me marvel not only at how the Cats have taken the Atlantic Division by storm (they now lead Detroit and Montreal by five points), but also made me wonder whether Luongo might be making a case for himself as a Vezina Trophy finalist. Of course, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals is the front-runner, but Luongo has quietly closed the gap with a 2.06 GAA and .930 save percentage. Holtby has a 1.93 GAA and .932 save percentage. So do you buy my argument? Is Luongo, at the ripe old age of 36, making a case for himself as the game's best goaltender in the continued absence of defending Vezina and Hart Trophy winner Carey Price, and is he in position to challenge Holtby for a spot on Team Canada's roster at the World Cup of Hockey next fall? I'm waiting.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: It is truly unreal how Luongo has dipped into the fountain of youth. Maybe his teammate, 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr, makes him feel like a kid again. There's no question Luongo is in the Vezina running, Scotty. Not sure on the Hart at this point, though. I think you need to have season like Price's last year, standing so far above everyone that you don't have a choice but to consider him, which voters don't normally like to do with goalies. As for the World Cup, interesting decisions are ahead for GM Doug Armstrong. Price is a lock at No. 1, but Luongo has forced himself into the No. 2 conversation with Holtby. Add in the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, Jake Allen and Corey Crawford and suddenly Canada is looking a lot deeper in goal than it did a year or two ago when the lack of top-end Canadian goalies was the topic du jour. Now there are options galore.
@ESPNJoeyMac: When we talk about Luongo, all I can think about is the 2011 Stanley Cup final between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins. After Luongo and the Canucks lost that series on home ice in Game 7, most wondered whether he could be an elite postseason goaltender. He was outstanding the following regular season but lost the first two playoff games to the Los Angeles Kings in the quarterfinals in 2012 and was replaced by Cory Schneider for the rest of the series. It seemed as though Luongo's career began to decline after 2011-12. After two more dismal seasons in Vancouver, he returned "home" to Florida at the trade deadline during 2013-14. And you're right Pierre, Luongo did find the fountain of youth, and his career has been re-energized with the Panthers. With what this team is doing right now and how its goaltender is playing, you no doubt have to place Luongo in the mix for the Vezina and a possible roster spot on Team Canada. I just wonder whether he can sustain this type of success at age 36. Then again, Tim Thomas was 36 when he beat Luongo for the Stanley Cup in 2011.
@CraigCustance: Luongo has definitely been overlooked this season in Florida, mostly because Jagr is such a star. GM Dale Tallon deserves a ton of credit for going out and adding a veteran goalie while he built the Panthers because having that guy around certainly can hide a lot of the mistakes that come with growing pains experienced by younger players. Ownership deserves credit here, too, because that was a big contract to take on. He's in the Vezina conversation, but I still think he has work to do to even be considered in the Team Canada conversation. Yes, he has an Olympic gold medal, but he didn't exude the same confidence in goal Price did in Sochi. I'd still say he's behind Price and Holtby, but that takes nothing away from what he's done in Florida. He and the Panthers have simply been the best story in hockey this year.
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