In what could have made for a highly entertaining partnership, Roberto Luongo was traded on Tuesday to the Florida Panthers, where he would be teamed up with fellow goalie Tim Thomas. Unfortunately for fans and the media, the goalie duo of Luongo-Thomas was not meant to be, falling flat before ever getting the chance to get pumped up. Less than 24 hours after acquiring Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks, the Panthers sent Thomas packing to the Dallas Stars shortly before the NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
It is disappointing that the idea of a Luongo-Thomas duo fell through because of their history together. The Luongo-Thomas mania dates back to the 2011 Stanley Cup finals when Thomas’ Bruins defeated Luongo’s Canucks in seven games. During the series, Luongo criticized Thomas’ aggressive style of play and the two traded jabs through the press. The drama started following the Canucks win in Game 5 by a score 1-0 after Thomas left the crease and a ricocheted shot left him vulnerable. Maxim Lapierre scored on the rebound despite Thomas’ best attempt to recover.
Luongo said that it would not have been a difficult save if Thomas were playing in the crease. “It’s an easy save for me,” he said. “But if you’re wandering out, that’s going to happen.” The following day Luongo changed course with his remarks, saying that Thomas might make some saves that he could not make himself, the two just approach the game differently. But then Luongo finished by saying he had been “pumping [Thomas’] tires” ever since the finals started and yet, he had not heard Thomas say anything nice about him in return.
Reporters told Thomas what Luongo had said, to which he replied that he didn’t know it was his job to pump his opponent’s tires. The Bruins, down 3-2 at that point in the series, went on to win the next two games, including Game 7 on Vancouver’s home ice. In Game 6, Luongo was pulled after giving up three goals in just over three minutes, and in Game 7 the Bruins won handily 4-0.
During the 2010-2011 season, the two goalies were tops in the league and the Stanley Cup was the culmination of two great seasons. Thomas was first in the NHL in goals against average, while Luongo was second. Thomas was first in save percentage, while Luongo was third. Both were finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s best goalie, an award Thomas went on to win. Thomas also won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the award given to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and was the oldest player to receive the award at the age of 37.
For a very brief period, these two were teammates, but dreams of a Luongo-Thomas duo fell flat just prior to the trade deadline. They never even had a chance to share a locker room. But before Thomas was traded he managed to have some fun with the situation at Luongo’s expense. After the Panther’s loss Tuesday to Thomas’ former team, the Bruins, he said that Panther’s GM, Dale Tallon, must have gone out “kicking some tires,” he chuckled, “and found one that needed pumping.”
By David Tulis