Asked if he’s enjoying the best regular season feeling he’s ever known, Roberto Luongo said, “It is.”
This might sadden Canucks fans when you consider he played seven seasons in Vancouver, winning two Presidents’ Trophies with a team thought of as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
Luongo, in an interview with ESPN radio Wednesday, elaborated, “I’ve never had a ten-game winning streak as a team, even in all those years in Vancouver.”
He did, however, have his own incredible 21-game unbeaten streak, going 16-0-5 with the Canucks in 2010-11. That season, Luongo posted a .928 save percentage and a 2.11 goals against average.
But apparently he’s moved on.
“When this fell in my lap and I had a chance to come back to Florida, it was a perfect situation for me, not only because it was home, but because the team was young and up-and-coming and I saw a bright future in Florida, so it all worked out pretty well.”
It sure has. Luongo left an aging Canucks team in turmoil. Since he was traded, the team has undergone a full management overhaul and right now they sit 22 in league standings.
The Panthers, on the other hand, are the NHL’s hottest team. They’ll come to Vancouver Monday having extended that streak to 12 with Luongo in net for nine of those games. Florida sits at the top of Atlantic Division with a five-point cushion.
“The funny thing is once a team gets rolling and it has confidence, all of a sudden you realize you’re better than you thought you were,” said Luongo. “It kind of takes on a life of its own.”
“It just makes it so much sweeter because we came out of nowhere to get to this streak.”
With his second appearance in Vancouver since being traded to Florida coming up on Monday, Luongo was asked if he’s in a happier situation now.
“Once I lost the starting job in Vancouver the last couple years, that’s what made it difficult for me,” he said. “It wasn’t really about anything else and I just thought I was at a point in my career where I needed a fresh start, just to have a fresh mindset and to start over – kind of a reset button for me.”
He was also asked which moment was his worst in Vancouver.
“That’s a tough one,” he replied. “It never really felt ‘worst’. I mean there were some tough moments.
“You have to understand Vancouver’s like the Dolphins are here. People demand a lot and sometimes I fell a bit short, so it goes with the territory. I learned to deal with that stuff. It’s part of the game.
“I don’t want to put anyone down, I had a great time in Vancouver.”
Still, considering the spotlight he was under that simply doesn’t exist in Florida, you have to assume he prefers his new home.
“Both have their pros and cons,” said Luongo, comparing Vancouver and Florida. “There’s some things that are good about a crazy hockey market and there’s some things that are good about a place you can fly under the radar too.
“It depends what day of the week it is, to be honest with you. Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to go out in public and just do your thing.
“At the end of the day, really, what it comes down to is winning. It doesn’t matter what type of market you’re in. For me, I always put pressure on myself to win.”
Luongo’s recent streak has him ranked fourth on the NHL’s goaltending list with 19 wins. With the Panthers playing so well, the question becomes how far can the team go?
“When I say making the playoffs, that’s the goal, because once you’re in they say everyone’s got a chance,” said Luongo.
“Obviously we all play to win the Cup and that’s our ultimate goal.”
Upon hearing that, the radio hosts suggested a hot goalie could carry a team all the way.
“It’s always about the goaltending,” Luongo said, laughing. “Whether you win or lose, it’s always about the goaltending – that’s something I learned a long time ago.”
There you go, Canucks fans – you can take credit for teaching Luongo that lesson.
Just make sure you give him some too, because he learned not to fight it.
“Yeah for sure,” said Luongo.
“If you’re goalie gets hot you never know what can happen.”