Is Roberto Luongo Saving the Florida Panthers?
As Roberto Luongo skated out prior to the December 16 game between the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals, he probably did not think the game would end with the longest shootout in NHL history. The Florida Panthers would finish out on top, pushing Luongo’s record to 11-6-6: and he was a large part of this victory, making game saving stops to further extend the never-ending shootout.
This win improved the Florida Panther to 13-8-8: hardly an earth-shattering record, which they would have to improve upon if they want a shot at the playoffs. But for the first time in years, analysts are mentioning Panthers and playoffs in the same sentence: something they have only reached twice in the last 14 seasons.
So how much has Roberto Luongo affected this transition? Well, Luongo has been a longtime journeyman, who has strikingly played a good portion of his years for the Panthers: he started off with Islanders before being quickly traded to the Panthers. After five seasons he was shipped off to Vancouver and then during the 2013-14 season he was sent back to the Panthers. And throughout this career he has garnered a save percentage of .919, a goals against average of 2.50 and 67 shutouts.
And through 23 games in the 2014-15 season, Luongo’s save percentage is up at .925, has a shutout already and has the ninth best goals against average in the league. In fact, Luongo’s return to the panthers has reinvigorated his career, as he has posted a saving percentage above .920 since his return — in 14 games played for the Panthers last season he averaged .924. He has not seen this good of a save percentage or goals against average since 2011, where he went .928 and 2.11.
Now, it is hard to say that the Panthers’ resurgence is due solely to him because Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad have been playing fantastic. At the same time, Luongo is not getting all the support he deserves: the Panthers are 27th in goals per game with a putrid 2.2, 25th in power play percentage with 13.5 percent and 20th in penalty kill percentage with 80.2 percent. These are hardly playoff caliber numbers: meaning some of the weight needs to be taken off the 35-year-old goaltenders shoulders if the Panthers have any hope to garner a bid to the postseason.
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