The Ballad of Bobby Lu has been many things: epic, for sure; often a dirge; at times joyous; and, now, somewhat farcical.
The Vancouver Canucks, on Wednesday morning, via the team’s Twitter account, announced their star goaltender, Cory Schneider, is injured, an undisclosed malady, with his status in the NHL playoff-speak shroud of “day-to-day.”
Into the breach would step the man who, earlier this month, was almost traded for basically nothing to the Toronto Maple Leafs – Roberto Luongo, the 34-year-old back in the crease for a swan song of indefinite length.
Spasms of panic, and resignation, rippled through the faithful fans in the city of glass. Schneider has played incredible hockey since he was benched on his 27th birthday, a bit more than a month ago – and his loss, if it were extended, could be a blow, never mind the fact Luongo has long carried this hockey team.
But within two hours of the Canucks tweet, calm had spread over the waters of English Bay and False Creek.
“I’m fine,” Schneider told a reporter at Rogers Arena, before the annual team photo on Wednesday. Schneider suited up for the photo but did not practice.
Mike Gillis, the team president, told local radio Schneider “will be fine.” Without saying what was wrong, he added: “It should settle down.”
Asked if Schneider will be ready to start the playoffs, head coach Alain Vigneault offered: “Uh … we’re hoping.”
All in, it did sound like Schneider will be ready for Game 1, which will start in Vancouver either on Tuesday or Wednesday, in an arena where Schneider has won eight in a row, given up just seven goals and posted three shutouts. The likeliest opponent: the St. Louis Blues, with the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild with lesser odds as first-round foe.
For Luongo, the start Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks could be his last appearance in a Vancouver uniform at home, though in this discordant ballad there are no certainties. The Canucks finish the regular season on the road in Edmonton on Saturday, where Luongo will probably also play, and if they make a long run into spring, there could well be more Luongo backstopping the team.
“It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?” he said when asked about the remarkable twists his story has taken since being benched in the playoffs a year ago for Schneider when the Canucks were playing poorly against L.A. ‘Luongo ventured his ballad could have “a little ways to go before it’s over.”
“You’ve just got to be ready,” he said of his role as backup.
As for Schneider, Luongo suggested the injury was not serious. Schneider played a strong game against the Chicago Blackhawks last Monday, giving up only one goal, and appeared fine in the locker room. Luongo described, hypothetically, how a “day-to-day” injury could emerge from a situation where nothing appears amiss.
In the thick of a game, adrenalin soaks up minor pains. A puck might, in a rare instance, crack a skate boot, and a goaltender feels the sting, “a little something,” but plays on. It’s only later the hurt is actual hurt.
“Once your body cools down, and you decompress, that’s when it kicks in,” Luongo said.
Schneider’s injury, however minor and fleeting, did highlight, in searing fashion, what the situation would have been had Luongo actually been shipped to the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline.
The Canucks starting goaltender? Hello, Ben Scrivens (and backed up by Joe Cannata, a 23-year-old who has never played an NHL game and was called up from the minors Wednesday).
“Right now,” forward Henrik Sedin said of the non-trade, “it looks great.”
As for the epic Ballad of Bobby Lu, Sedin felt pretty certain it is not quite concluded. “I’m sure it’s going to be a few more stories about him before the season’s over.”