There are two things you should know about Roberto Luongo's final game this season, besides the one thing you will remember.
When the Vancouver Canucks were ready to expire, he alone nearly kept them alive with his will and skill and one of the finest gut-check performances in the history of a franchise that has had too few of them.
And after the goaltender made the mistake no one will forget, taking his eye off the puck long enough to be beaten, Luongo stood teary-eyed in front of his locker and patiently told each wave of reporters that he was to blame, that he had cost the Canucks the game and their playoff.
Those words were written four long years ago, before three Vezina nominations, before 28 shutouts, before four Molson Cups, before being named captain, before an Olympic gold medal, before leading a seemingly unstoppable Canucks team to within 60 minutes of their first Stanley Cup. The words were written in the Vancouver Sun, under the headline "Luongo's Canucks legacy looms larger than his last play." Even after just one season in Vancouver, they were concerned about Roberto Luongo's legacy.
That wasn't a legacy, of course. Not giving up a 2OT goal to the Ducks in a second round series in which he was fighting the stomach flu. Luongo's legacy wasn't defined by his playoff diarrhea any more than it will be by what happens tonight, win or lose. Game 7 is, after all, a hockey game, played under the same rules as the other 730 NHL games Luongo has been in net. It will not define a career or a goaltender or a man, nor will it answer the question "Can Roberto Luongo win the big one?" That question, insofar as it is answerable at all and not an eternal hypothetical, is already outdated.
How many lights out games have Canucks fans seen from Bobby Lou at GM Place? Too many to count, but Luongo will need to dig down deep and come up with one of those performance-of-a-career games for his team to be successful. We still haven't seen Louie's A game — but he needs to bring it today. Soft goals simply cannot happen. This is a legacy game for Luongo and he's well aware of it.
Those words appeared more than a year ago in the Ottawa Citizen, before Luongo stood between the pipes at the Olympics and turned away 34 shots - precisely as many as were needed to win the big one. Presumably that would have cemented the legacy that so many commentators had assigned to the outcome of one game. It didn't.
The legacy, or precisely the legacy game, is a creation of ours, not an objective reality. We want so desperately for codified history to emerge from the quantum uncertainty of the present. We seek the narrative that fits to our constructions of what sport should be — the symmetry, the poetry, the drama, the perfection of one game being able to define the undefinable, a life's work. A life. But it goes far beyond hyperbole when we designate a legacy game before the game is played.
And then game seven. The series had seen it all, from overtime thrillers to lopsided blowouts to everything in between, and game seven certainly fit into one of those categories. All eyes were on Roberto Luongo. Many thought he would rise to the occasion while others thought he would crumble, and in the end we now know they were right. Without question, this game will be his defining legacy.
Those words appeared today, or rather tomorrow, in a wonderful game 7 "recap" written before game 7. It would be funny if we weren't sure to find similar paragraphs written tomorrow, tongue-out-of-cheek.
Certainly there are legacies made on games, in moments. Stephane Matteau, Kelly Hrudey, Mike Rupp, a hundred other unlikely heroes. Some fourth-line forward for Vancouver or Boston could define their careers tonight with a single flick of the wrist, but not Roberto Luongo. Legacy games are for those who haven't spent a career building their own.
"Without Luongo, there were no playoffs for the Canucks, no division title. Without him, the idea of next season would be as bleak and hollow as most of the team's previous promises. Luongo actually had teammates believing they could win a Stanley Cup even with a handful of pieces missing.
With Luongo back in net next season, they'll still believe."
Those words were written in 2007. They apply equally today.