|With saves like this one, Canucks goalie Cory Schneider recorded the victory — his 11th of the season — against the Blues Thursday. “Things are going really well,’’ said the rookie. (Jonathan Hayward/Associated Press)|
BC’s Schneider finally lands in NHL
BC’s Schneider proves solid backup to Luongo
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Cory Schneider, last seen patrolling the Conte Forum crease in 2006-07, lives in a downtown Vancouver building owned by the father of former Boston College teammate Brock Bradford. One of Schneider’s neighbors is Andrew Alberts, who was a senior at BC when Schneider was a first-year Eagle.
Some connections never fade.
Schneider, 24, has settled into life as an NHL goalie. As Roberto Luongo’s backup with the Canucks, the Marblehead, Mass., native plays the same role Tuukka Rask does in Boston. Like Rask, Schneider was a first-round pick. As Rask plays No. 2 to Tim Thomas, the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, Schneider is the helping hand to Luongo.
Rask projects to be a go-to ace in the near future, and Schneider has the skills to be a No. 1 goalie, although the 31-year-old Luongo stands in his way in Vancouver.
“I got off to a good start,’’ Schneider said of his rookie season. “I think that was important. I think every game I play, I get more confident and more comfortable in the environment of playing in this league.
“It helps when we have such a good team around us. A lot of times, it’s just me making the first save and my guys helping me out. I think it’s a combination of both things. So things are going really well.’’
In his three years at BC, Schneider established himself as one of the hottest goalie prospects in the world. As a freshman, he backed up former Bruins draft pick Matti Kaltiainen. During Schneider’s sophomore and junior seasons, coach Jerry York tapped him to be his go-to guy. In a league that featured some serious talent in Ben Bishop, John Curry, Kevin Regan, and Jonathan Quick, Schneider was arguably the best of the bunch.
The issue, however, was Schneider’s place behind one of the NHL’s premier goalies. Schneider turned pro after his junior year in 2006-07. For the next three seasons, he had to wait his turn in Manitoba, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate.
Because the Canucks were comfortable with Luongo assuming a heavy workload, they opted for cheap labor as his backups. Among the bunch: Curtis Sanford, Drew MacIntyre, Jason LaBarbera, and ex-Bruin Andrew Raycroft. Which left Schneider parked in Manitoba for three seasons.
“In college, you don’t really know what to expect,’’ Schneider said. “After a couple years in the American League, you start to wonder, ‘OK, when am I going to get my chance? When am I going to prove that I can play there and do well?’
“It took me three full years. But every minute of that time in the American League was valuable. I think it’s helped me out this year a lot.’’
When Raycroft, Luongo’s No. 2 last year, signed with Dallas, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis and coach Alain Vigneault were confident Schneider was ready for life as a full-time NHLer.
Schneider has proven his bosses correct. In 18 appearances, he is 11-3-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Entering last night, Schneider’s GAA and save percentage were identical to Luongo’s.
A significant reason Schneider has found his groove is a makeover to his style. He liked to explode out of his crease to attack shooters and cut down angles, then retreat into the paint. This season, under the counsel of goaltending coach Roland Melanson, both Schneider and Luongo are playing deeper in the crease.
“We rarely get out of the crease now,’’ said Schneider. “Maybe toes on the line, if that. It just makes movement so much easier. You don’t have to push from end to end and side to side as much. You’re not flopping around as much. You’re just staying in the crease and letting pucks hit you.
“I used to get pretty far out of my crease, then back in with a lot of speed to try and time the rush. I think all that was throwing me off. Anytime you get a rebound or back-door, it’s 6 feet back to get to the save instead of 3 feet back with a quick little push.
“Subtle adjustments. But I think it’s made a big difference.’’
Twin powers Going into last night, Henrik and Daniel Sedin had combined for 47 goals and 106 assists to carry the Vancouver offense, but they were scoreless in last night’s 3-1 Bruins’ victory.
“They read off each other so well,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who attended the Canucks’ 3-2 win over St. Louis Thursday. “A lot of give-and-gos.’’
One play the Sedins execute better than any other pairing is the slap pass that can turn into goals. One of the twins, usually Henrik, has the puck on the right side. Daniel sets up in front and opens up his blade. Henrik slaps a pass to Daniel, who deflects the puck through traffic and past an unsuspecting goalie.
“When it works, it’s a tough play, because it’s a deflection,’’ said Andrew Ference, who played against the Sedins while in Calgary. “With the tilt of the stick, if it’s a millimeter this way or that, it’s going in a totally different direction.
“You’ve got people in front of the net, so the defensemen are screening you. The defenseman’s trying to get in the lane or block it. But he’s worried about a guy back-door or right in front of the net. There’s a lot going on. It’s a busy area.’’
Hnidy signs on Shane Hnidy, 35, signed a one-year contract. Hnidy has been with the Bruins since Wednesday on a tryout basis. The 35-year-old Hnidy has not been cleared medically to play. Hnidy continues to recover from a rotator cuff injury he suffered in training camp . . . Former Bruin Marco Sturm, placed on waivers by the Kings Friday, was claimed by Washington yesterday. Fellow ex-Bruin Nick Boynton, waived by Chicago Friday, was snapped up by Philadelphia . . . The Canucks entered last night with the league’s best power play (25.1 percent). Daniel Sedin has 13 power-play goals, three fewer than NHL leader Steven Stamkos. “You’ve got the Sedins and you’ve got [Ryan] Kesler, who does an outstanding job in front of the net,’’ Julien said. “They’ve got some guys who can shoot the puck. The thing you have to be against this team is disciplined.’’ The Canucks were 0 for 3 on the power play last night . . . Prior to the morning skate, Shawn Thornton was loitering in the hallway. Thornton’s explanation: “Power-play meeting.’’