When a hurler wants to pitch in a big baseball game, he uses three simple words to get his point across: Gimme the ball.
There may not be any similar phrasing a hockey goaltender can use when he’s eager to get back on the ice and play — but if there is one, no doubt Cory Schneider will use it today.
The 27-year-old from Marblehead is eager to get the starting assignment between the pipes tonight when his team, the Vancouver Canucks, opens the Stanley Cup playoffs at home against their quarterfinal opponents, the San Jose Sharks. Schneider missed the last two games of the regular season with what the team (in hockey’s typically crypt fashion) referred to as a ‘lower body injury’, but said he’s ready to answer the bell if called tonight.
“I’m feeling good,” Schneider said last night from Vancouver. “I’m not sure if Alain (Vigneault, the Canucks’ head coach) has announced whether me or Louie (fellow Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo) is going to play, but I’m ready.”
Schneider practiced with his Canucks teammates for the second straight day yesterday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver and said he’s ready to assume the starter’s job for the during of the playoffs.
“Hopefully this is my year to really make my mark in the playoffs,” he said.
Having recently gotten engaged to his girlfriend Jill Connors, Schneider will head into the playoffs having gone 17-9-4 during the shortened NHL regular season. His goals-against average of 2.11, save percentage of .927 and five shutouts were all among the best in the NHL, but the former Boston College star feels he’s just now playing his best hockey of the season after a so-so start.
It’s been an interesting season to say the least — and not just because of the NHL lockout and the fact that the season didn’t begin until mid-January. Schneider was anointed as Vancouver’s No. 1 keeper while incumbent Roberto Luongo was expected to be traded. But a deal for Luongo never materialized, and the two goalies had to once again work in tandem; the keeper that was hot would get the majority of the starts until he hit a dry spell, then Vigneault would turn to his other netminder.