It was the kind of save that changes the course of a game. And if the Vancouver Canucks can pull off a miraculous comeback, a series.
With 14:37 left in the third period of Wednesday night's game between the Kings and Canucks, Dustin Brown skated to center ice for a penalty shot. Until this point, he'd been dominant for the Kings, who were looking to clinch a four-game sweep at home.
Brown already had four goals in four playoff games and two of them came shorthanded. People still point to his hit on Henrik Sedin earlier in the series as the kind of clean, physical momentum-changer that hockey needs, contrasting it against the Raffi Torres ugliness.
A goal on the penalty shot, during the Kings' penalty kill no less, would have fit the narrative of this series perfectly.
But Cory Schneider was waiting. He aggressively came out to play Brown, didn't bite enough on Brown's first fake and got enough of a push to stop Brown's shot. It was a game saver, the most important save of many for Schneider in this game.
The Canucks won 3-1, avoiding the sweep. It was Schneider's second consecutive start in the series and it was his second consecutive strong start. He finished with 43 saves on 44 shots, putting his postseason record at 1-1, with a 1.01 goals-against average and .969 save percentage. The man he replaced, Roberto Luongo, is 0-2 with a 3.59 goals-against and .891 save percentage in the playoffs.
The biggest thing for Schneider was his comfort level on the road. Last year during the finals, if Luongo had been even average in Boston, the Canucks probably would have won the Stanley Cup. In this road game, Schneider was especially strong early. The Kings outshot the Canucks 31-16 in the first two periods, scoring just once. When the Canucks finally got going, their goalie had played well enough to keep them in the game.
"That's what a goalie is there for, especially on the road," Schneider told reporters afterward. "It's a first step we had to have and we can worry about the next one."
If he keeps this up, it's almost impossible to trade him during the offseason. It probably is already. He's a well-liked player in the dressing room, and the Canucks want to play for him.
"[Schneider] really is a popular guy," one NHL source said. "Not that [Luongo] isn't. He's a different kind of guy."
Now, the Canucks must draw up a plan that includes keeping Schneider and moving Luongo. It's not an easy proposition.
In September 2009, Luongo signed a 12-year contract that extends through the 2021-22 season. It comes with an average salary cap hit of $5.33 million per season. The big payday came last season when Luongo earned $10 million of the $64 million. From then until 2017-18 he's paid $6.7 million per season before the contract tails off in the final four seasons.
The kicker? It comes with a no-trade clause. Not that it needs it.
I checked with a couple of NHL general managers to see if Luongo's contract is moveable. One laughed. The other was a little more diplomatic.
"No," he answered. "Unless the trading team was allowed to subsidize the deal."
So what are the Canucks' options with Luongo this summer?
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