When the New York Islanders drafted Roberto Luongo fourth overall in 1997 and when the Florida Panthers acquired him in 2000, the Montreal native was supposed to become an all-world goaltender capable of carrying a team. He was supposed to be something like a Martin Brodeur and even take a run at the record books.
When the Vancouver Canucks traded peanuts for him in 2006 it was much of the same. He’d later become the team’s captain and sign a 12-year extension reserved for only the best of the best...and Rick DiPietro.
With his next win, Luongo will tie ‘Tiny’ Thompson for 30th on the all-time wins list with 284. What’s telling about this is Luongo will enter the list without having appeared in a Stanley Cup final. At first glance that seems pretty demanding of a 31-year-old, but consider this: the only other goalies in the top 30 for wins to never play in the Cup final are Dan Bouchard, Evgeni Nabokov, Mike Liut, Sean Burke and Curtis Joseph. None, outside perhaps Joseph, are Hall of Famers and all are pretty far from what the expectations were for Luongo initially.
Add to that how Luongo’s 52 shutouts rank 20th all-time and that he joins only Roy Worters on that list as goalies who haven’t played in a Cup final.
He hasn’t been a Vezina finalist since 2007 (the same year he was a Hart finalist) and has only been in the running as the league’s best goalie twice in his career. And while a 13-8-2 record, 2.55 goals-against average and .911 save percentage are nothing to sneeze at, it won’t get him back to being a nominee.
Still, he’s the best goalie from his draft. Scott Clemmensen (eighth round, 215th overall) is the only other ‘tender from that draft still in the NHL.
GAME OF THE MONTH: In the first game of the season (against Washington) Ondrej Pavelec fainted, sustained a concussion and missed nearly a month’s worth of games. Since our last Vezina Watch Nov. 15 Pavelec has played the high-powered Capitals offense twice: a 29-save shutout Nov. 19 and a 45-save clinic in a 3-1 win Dec. 4.
RISING: Pavelec was off to a good start at our last update, but simply hadn’t played enough games. Well, now he has and he is right in the thick of this race.
FALLING: Brian Elliott was a surprise addition on our last list, having hit a hot streak and knocking off Tim Thomas in the process. However, Elliott hasn’t won since Nov. 27 and the Senators are slipping fast.
MAKING THE CASE
Boston allows the fifth-most shots against, yet Thomas is running away with the race statistically and has allowed four goals just once this season.
Has faced the second-most shots this season and the Canadiens have the fewest goals-for of any Eastern Conference playoff team.
So little room for error: Pavelec had a three-game losing skid in November, during which his GAA was 2.00. He’s 0-3-2 in games where he’s let in at least three goals.
Struggled with four losses in five contests to end November, but it’s hard to argue against a guy with a 1.92 GAA and .927 SP, even if his team holds opponents to the third-lowest shots-against per game.
Had a major hiccup against Detroit and Colorado in mid-November, but Halak is still among the best and gets wins despite a lackluster offense in front of him.
At one point he was 1-6 with horrific numbers, but Fleury has 11 wins in a row, allowing just 18 goals over that stretch and 13 in his past 14 games, bringing his SP up from a season low of .853 to .914
Has lost his past four starts against teams with winning records and slowed from a quick start to season. It will be interesting to see how many starts he gets when Michael Leighton returns this week.
Continues to be the finest New York has to offer. Lundqvist has faced the sixth-most shots in the league and is tied with Thomas atop the NHL with five shutouts.
The Coyotes have been more offensive than last season, so their shots-against have risen from 29.6 per game to 33.3. Nonetheless, Bryzgalov’s SP is higher than last season and he seems to be settling in.
It’d take a miracle for a goalie from a non-playoff team to actually win the Vezina, but Vokoun deserves credit. His numbers put him among the league’s elite and he is actually 0-2 in games where he’s allowed two goals.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Jimmy Howard is certainly helping dispel the notion Detroit’s goaltending is a concern, but he’s also helped a little by having the league’s best offense in front of him. Howard is a respectable 2-3-2 in games where he’s allowed four goals or more. Other notables: Roberto Luongo, Niklas Backstrom.
THN.com's Vezina Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also track the Hart, Norris and Jack Adams.