Canucks and Beyond

Roberto Luongo: NHL Press Conference

03/28/2007 at 3:59pm EDT

I participated in the NHL’s media conference call with Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo a few minutes ago. I was able to ask a couple of my own questions, which Roberto was good enough to answer. Paraphrasing from memory, I asked:

(1) You’ve mentioned numerous times this season that you’re not seeking individual records, but more concerned about the team’s performance. But is it perhaps exciting to be closing in on Bernie Parent’s record for season wins?

He responded “No, not really,” and pointed out that with overtime wins and shootout points, he doesn’t really feel like his achievement could be compared to a record like Parents’.

(2) Now that you’re assured your spot in the playoffs, will your focus now change to mentally preparing a game plan thinking of the different possible opponents you might face?

He responded that he isn’t thinking of any one team at all yet. Given that things are so bunched up in the standings it could be any of 4-5 teams they could be facing, so it’s not something he’s focusing on at this point.

Numerous other media members asked interesting questions about Luongo’s excitement as he heads into his first post-season. The complete transcript should be available here in about an hour or so.

Update Added 1:10 pm PT: Interview Transcript
(questions asked by various media members)

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m David Keon of the National Hockey League’s public relations department, and I’d like to welcome you to today’s call.

Our guest is Vancouver Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo. Thanks to Roberto for taking the time today to answer your questions. Thanks to Ben Brown of the Canucks’ public relations department for arranging the call.

Appearing in his 71st game last night, Roberto recorded his fifth shutout of the season and 32nd of his seven-year NHL year as the Canucks defeated the Colorado Avalanche, clinching a playoff berth in this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. With the victory Roberto is tied with fellow Montrealer Martin Brodeur for the league lead with 44 wins, his goals against average of 2.26 ranks fifth among goalies in the NHL, and he ranks third with a .923 save percentage.

With six games left in the season both Roberto and Martin have a chance to break Bernie Parent’s single-season record of 47 victories set in 1973-74.

In his first season with the Canucks, he has already passed the team record for victories by a goaltender, needs two more appearances to eclipse Gary Smith’s mark of 72 games played set in 1974-75.

With 99 points, Vancouver leads the Northwest Division by one point over Minnesota with one game in hand. They meet the Kings in Los Angeles tomorrow and host the Calgary Flames at GM place on Saturday night.

Thanks to Roberto for taking the time today to answer your questions. We’ll open it up now.


Q. Roberto, there’s been so much talk all this year about getting to the playoffs. Now that you’re there, does your mindset change any? Would you like to take a few games off to get ready for the playoffs, or do you want to just keep doing everything the way the team has right through?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Well, yeah, the main goal going into this season was to make the playoffs, but I think over the last week, couple weeks actually, I think our focus really has been changing more towards trying to win the division, and from here on in the schedule is not too hectic except for finishing off with back-to-back.

So I think for now we’re going to just keep doing what we’re doing. Obviously it would be nice to get home ice advantage for the first round.

Q. How many games do you think—again, like you’ve played the majority of the games. Do you foresee playing the majority of the games down the final stretch here?

ROBERTO LUONGO: No, I don’t really know. I think it’s more of a coaches’ decision, like I’ve said all along, and I’ve told them, also, I’m ready to play every game. If he decides he wants to rest me one night or two nights, that’s his decision.

Q. I wonder, with so much experience behind your belt, how do you feel going into the playoffs now the Canucks have clinched a spot?

ROBERTO LUONGO: I feel great. I haven’t played in a playoff game in the NHL, but in juniors and the AHL and obviously I’ve been part of Team Canada, which there have been a lot of high pressure situations. I think for me it’s going to be exciting, and we’ve been playing a lot of playoff-type games down the stretch here, and I feel when those type of games come around, they’re fun games to play in, and my game elevates even more I feel.

Q. Martin Brodeur did one of these calls the other day, and he was asked who he might pick for the Hart Trophy if he couldn’t vote for himself. It sounded like he wanted to. I’m just wondering who you might pick if you can’t vote for yourself?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Well, I think there’s a lot of good candidates out there, but I think I might have to go with the same choice as Marty. Sidney’s (Crosby) leading the league in scoring right now, and their not a team that was in the playoffs last year. I mean, I think he’s probably one of the best candidates.

Q. I wanted to talk to you a little bit more about the playoffs. It seems to be the one criticism people have had of you before is that you haven’t been able to take a team to the playoffs. What does it mean to you to make it now, and do you feel like that was important for you to get there to quiet some people in regards to that?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Well, I mean, I think all along, I mean, obviously that was something that I’ve always been looked upon, that I never played in the playoffs. But like I said, it takes 20 guys on a team to make a successful team and make the playoffs. We’ve been playing great all season as a unit. I mean, obviously I did not do this by myself. I mean, everybody in the locker room has an important role on this team, and we did it together.

I think that’s the main thing that really helped us achieve our goal this year where we are, and we want to achieve more now once the playoffs start.

Q. Just a quick follow up, you guys had a lot of close games with the Panthers last year where you came out on the wrong side, especially in overtime, in shootouts. What do you feel has been the difference, why with the Canucks you guys have been so successful in these overtime shootout type games?

ROBERTO LUONGO: I think we’ve got some really key goals, especially in overtime. We’ve won a lot of big games that way, and then we’ve got a couple guys that are go-to guys in the shootouts that are getting us some big goals. So that’s why I think really our overtime and shootout records have been pretty good this year.

Q. How sweet was it last night to finally get over that hump and get into the playoffs after not playing for so many good teams in Florida? You must have reflected last night how great it’s going to be to enter the post season for the first time.

ROBERTO LUONGO: Yeah, it’s a nice feeling to know that you’re going to be in the playoffs. Obviously I’ve been working my whole career to finally get there. It’s nice to know that that’s in the bank, but as I said before, the focus has really been shifting on trying to win the division, and even though last night was really nice, you really try to stay focused and really go the rest of the way to try to accomplish your goal of winning the season.

Q. Early in the season when things weren’t going well, I remember that road trip where you lost three straight, the last one in Columbus, you guys have been on a great run since Christmas, but did you think early in the year it was going to be tough? Nobody predicted this great run, but is it great to know that you struggled early on but you guys have picked it up, like the best team in the league since Christmas?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Yeah, well, now that you look back at it, I mean, obviously there was a lot of new faces on the team and there was a new coach and new system, so I think it took a little while for everybody to gel together as a team and play together with the system. Once we came back from the break, I mean, we just picked it up, and I think the more the weeks go by, the better we play as a team and within our system.

Q. What about all this talk about the Hart Trophy? How are you taking all this talk, Sidney Crosby, yourself, Martin Brodeur, that’s some pretty elite company to be talked about?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Yeah, it’s great. To be honest with you, I try not to deal with that that much. You know, it’s a great honor to be mentioned for that trophy, but at the same time, I know that I’ve got a job to do, and my teammates are a big part of the reason why I’m being mentioned for that trophy.

You know, we’ll see once the season is over what happens, but for right now, I think I’d just like to stay focused on what I’m trying to do for my team.

Q. It gets pretty crazy in Vancouver come playoff time. Are you ready for the crowds and city going nuts?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Yeah, I heard it gets crazy. I’m really excited to be part of that whole deal and just excited to get things going.

Q. The defense that’s playing in front of you is really drastically different from a year ago there in Vancouver. I know you didn’t play there a year ago, but no Allan, no Jovanovski, you’ve had to plug in a couple of kids. Can you talk about how this team has come together and your communication with them and how that whole deal has worked out?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Well, it’s been great. The defense is really, I think, one of the more underrated in the NHL. They’re really solid, and I think the guys that were here last year like Sammi Salo and Mattias Ohlund, those are great D-men, and then I think we added a big piece of the puzzle with Willie Mitchell who is really great on the penalty kill and is a really defensive-minded guy.

Also we’ve got guys that have stepped up like Kevin Bieksa, and even Lukas Krajicek has been playing really well. I mean, I can’t say enough about them. They’ve been terrific all year for me, and they really helped me out as far as, you know, taking the guys that are in prime scoring areas and taking care of rebounds.

Q. You’ve mentioned a few times this season that you’re not seeking individual records, that it’s the team that is always first on your mind. I was just wondering, despite that, are you somewhat excited to be closing in on Bernie Parent’s record for the season wins?

ROBERTO LUONGO: To be honest, I don’t really look at that record with all that seriousness. I think now with shootout wins and stuff like that, it kind of diminishes it a little bit. For me that’s not really important as far as how many wins we get, and I think just winning games is what I’m worried about.

And then whatever the total adds up at the end of the year is going to be what it’s going to be. You know, that record for me is not really that important, to be honest with you.

Q. I can understand that. One other thing. Now that you’re in the playoffs do you start mentally preparing a game plan, thinking about the possible opponents you might face, or is it just kind of a general sort of attitude that you’re facing at that time?

ROBERTO LUONGO: It’s kind of tough to say right now because all the teams are so bunched up, so we could be facing between five or six different teams at this point. I think we might have to wait another week or so to see more or less who we might be facing. Right now it’s really hard to tell with the standings so close.

Q. I just want to know, have you always been a kind of goalie who has to be told he can’t go on the ice because you want to play every game and you’re much like Marty Brodeur? Have you always been that way where if a coach says take the practice off, you still want to go on the ice?

ROBERTO LUONGO: Yeah, I want to get out there and just try to improve myself. Also you’ve got to listen to your body, and if my body feels like it needs a rest I’ll take it.

But right now I think the circumstances, my energy level is really high, and I’m really excited to get out on the ice. I don’t feel the need to take any rest or anything like that.

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