Did Roberto Luongo Choke in Stanley Cup Finals More Than Lebron James in NBA Finals?

Roberto Luongo allowed 20 goals in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals as part of another signature choke effort. One game included 8 goals by the Boston Bruins, which was Lebron James’ famous total of points in Game Four of the NBA Finals. I understand that there is far more importance on an NHL goaltender to stand in front of every shot than one of five players on the basketball court taking a shot each possession. One bad night by Luongo means near certain doom, but Lebron can struggle in a win. The comparison isn’t perfect, but just for fun let’s take a look at it.

In many ways, the Vancouver Canucks were the Miami Heat of the NHL. Roberto Luongo could represent Lebron James on this team, making the Sedin twins Dwyane Wade and Ryan Kesler Chris Bosh. The Canucks were the flashiest team in the NHL, much like the Heat in the NBA. The Bruins on the other hand had only one superstar, exactly like the Dallas Mavericks. Tim Thomas was Dirk Nowitzki, carrying a team of above-average players to everlasting glory.

Lebron James and Roberto Luongo were arguably the best players on their teams, and possibly in the league at their positions. Both players had MVP caliber regular seasons. Roberto Luongo is a Vezina finalist after leading the NHL in wins for the best team in the league, while Lebron James had another MVP-type year as well. Expectations were equally high this postseason for both players, and in the biggest moments for their teams both players fell apart. They seem to lack “killer instinct”, in addition to lacking championships.

With a chance to put the Bruins away in Game Three, Roberto Luongo allowed eight goals in the final two periods. A win would have meant a 3-0 lead in the series, but the blowout loss gave Boston confidence after two heartbreaking losses. The Bruins lost Game One 1-0 on a goal with 18 seconds left. In Game Two, a player that bit a Canucks player had three points and scored in the opening minute of overtime. The Bruins were ready to crack, but Luongo left the door open. The Bruins came out in Game Four and thrashed the Canucks again behind another poor performance from Luongo. On home ice, Luongo rebounded in Game Five before handing the series back to the Bruins. He fell apart in Game Six and was pulled before the end of the first period. In Game Seven he lasted the entire 4-0 loss.

Lebron James went quiet where the NBA greats shine. He didn’t produce at the end of games, and he deferred to Dwyane Wade to take over the team. The Heat blew two seemingly insurmountable leads. If Lebron James was truly focusing on defense to justify his lack of offensive production, explain the collapses in the fourth quarter by the Heat. James had a few less-than-memorable 20+ point efforts, but no truly dominant games.

For this reason, it is difficult to say Luongo choked like Lebron James. James showed flashes of his greatness throughout the series, but Luongo had games where he was truly dominant. Luongo took control of the series and shutout the Bruins 1-0 to open the Stanley Cup finals. With the series tied 2-2, Luongo had a repeat performance to put the Canucks on the edge of hockey immortality. Luongo was dominant in ways Lebron James was not.

Both had performances that were historically terrible, but only Luongo had great games at any point in the championship. At least Luongo won Game Five to give his team two chances at a Stanley Cup championship. Both players had strong postseasons as a whole, but both choked in the finals. Lebron James and his six toes choked worse than Roberto Luongo in the quest for their first championships.

Mark Donatiello
Follow me on Twitter:  @FasterHockey ...read more


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