In what must have been the toughest scrum of his hockey career, Roberto Luongo stood in and faced all the questions on Friday at Rogers Arena.
Luongo spoke publicly for the first time since the decision by head coach Alain Vigneault to stick with back-up goaltender Cory Schneider in Game 4.
It was a move widely interpreted as a changing of the guard in the Canucks’ goal crease, fuelling rampant speculation on Luongo, 33, being traded in the off-season.
Luongo deflected questions regarding the speculation about his future.
“To be honest, I don’t really read or listen. I think right now is not the time to be thinking about that stuff,” said Luongo, who had near-iconic status almost immediately when he arrived in Vancouver six seasons ago. “We want to be playing hockey for a little while here and that’s what I want to focus on.”
Luongo, who did just about everything he had to in Games 1 and 2 except win them, admitted it was tough hearing from the coach that Schneider would get the nod in the biggest game of the season, in Game 4.
“I’m a competitor, you guys all know that,” he said. “It’s tough, but at the same time this is about the team. I’m not going to put myself ahead of the team. We worked hard all year to be in this position and right now I’m going to do the best I can to be ready in case I’m needed. I’m 100 per cent behind Cory and my teammates.”
Luongo paused momentarily when asked if it was particularly difficult that the decision wasn’t necessarily performance-related.
“That’s a tough one to answer,” he said. “Even though I thought I did all right in the first two games, you always want to be better. Obviously, we didn’t win and that’s what matters.”
Luongo said his relationship with Schneider has been excellent since the latter joined the team last season.
“We’re good friends,” said Luongo. “He’s been behind me 100 per cent since Day 1. He’s always been a great team guy and I’m going to be the same for him.”