THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Christopher L. Gasper

Luongo should have held on to this shot

Tim Thomas stopped 24 shots in Game 5, but the one that got away was said to be an “easy save.’’ Tim Thomas stopped 24 shots in Game 5, but the one that got away was said to be an “easy save.’’ (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Columnist / June 12, 2011

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This Stanley Cup Final has had it all — close games, flashing fangs, instant enmity, offensive outbursts, and a series-altering hit. Now, we can add a goalie controversy to the mix as we approach Game 6.

Oh, the job of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo is safe after he rebounded from a two-game, 12-goal shelling in Boston to blank the Bruins, 1-0, in Game 5, giving the Canucks a chance to lift Lord Stanley’s chalice tomorrow night at TD Garden. Emboldened by his vulcanized rubber redemption, Luongo decided to play goaltending coach and critique his puck-stopping counterpart, Tim Thomas.

Following Game 5, Luongo said the third-period goal Thomas allowed to Max Lapierre on a fluke bounce would have been “an easy save for me.’’

“It’s not hard if you’re playing in the paint,’’ said Luongo. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does that’s going to happen.’’

The last time Luongo, a three-time All-Star, was seen on Causeway Street it didn’t look as if he could make an easy save if outfitted with one of those Staples Easy buttons. Thomas, meanwhile, has been channeling Ken Dryden all series long, having allowed just six goals in five games in the Cup Final.

So, this comes across like Bernie Madoff critiquing the investment strategies of Warren Buffett, or deposed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt ripping Red Sox ownership. Absurd. Perhaps that’s why Thomas didn’t even bother talking to the media yesterday, and Bruins coach Claude Julien responded with a diaphanous dig.

“Let’s put it this way, I don’t think Timmy is going to make much of that comment,’’ said Julien. “I think you guys are making more out of it than Timmy will. I think his stats are proof itself. He has given up six goals in five games. The guy that made the comment, I’m not quite sure how many he has let in. I think you guys have a pretty good idea [Yeah Claude, 14]. I don’t think he is going to really lose sleep over that.’’

The Canucks appear to be losing plenty of Z’s over Thomas though, even with a 3-2 lead in the series. The NHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season has been flummoxed by the best flip-flopper from Michigan this side of Mitt Romney. Lapierre’s conversion of a lucky bounce behind the boards was the first puck the Canucks put past Thomas in 110 minutes and 42 seconds.

Since they’ve had a hard time getting the puck in his net, they’re trying to get inside his head. There has been so much talk by the Canucks about Thomas leaving the paint you would think you wandered into the NBA Finals. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault claimed that 90 percent of Thomas’s saves have come outside the crease, complaining about Thomas’s penchant for acrobatics and unorthodox way of turning aside pucks.

Moaning about Thomas using his athleticism to make saves is like suggesting Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick would be more effective if he were a pocket passer. It’s wishful thinking because it would make the Canucks’ job easier.

“Well, obviously they’re doing that for a reason,’’ said Bruins forward Chris Kelly. “That is hopefully fuel for Timmy to go out there and keep performing well. I don’t know how you criticize a guy that has been unbelievable thus far in the playoffs. All that really matters is what we think in this locker room, and we know that we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in if it wasn’t for Timmy.’’

At best, this is a lame attempt at gamesmanship by Luongo, and at worst it’s envy. Luongo is apparently irked by all the attention and adulation Thomas is getting from almost every corner of North America.

From a continent away you could practically hear him huffing, “What’s so great about that guy? I’m a Vezina Trophy finalist, too. I have four shutouts this postseason.’’

Yesterday, when asked about his postgame comments, the Canucks backstop tried to backtrack. Instead, he just sounded like a jealous, jilted goalie who is miffed he’s being upstaged.

“I was just saying on that particular play, I would have played it different,’’ Luongo said. “That’s the difference between me and him. I have been pumping his tires ever since the series started. I haven’t heard one nice thing he had to say about me. That’s the way it is.’’

Boohoo, Roberto. So, Thomas should have come to your defense when you got the hook with 16:43 to go in Game 4?

If Luongo, who deserves credit for his outstanding performance in Game 5 and a pair of shutouts in the series, was fishing for compliments yesterday, the Bruins were happy to oblige.

“He’s a world-class goaltender. He doesn’t have a gold medal by accident,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who called Luongo’s comments “unfortunate.’’

“Comments are comments. Some people make them. We choose to go the other way, I suppose,’’ said Thornton.

No need to rip Luongo because Thomas’s play speaks for itself.

He has been the single most transcendent player in the series. He is likely to win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, even if the Bruins’ Cup drought drags on for another season. Luongo allowed more goals in Game 3 (eight) than Thomas has in the entire series. There is no controversy when it comes to which goalie has been the gold standard.

Luongo should close his mouth and worry about doing the same to his own goal mouth.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com and can be read at www.boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.

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