Surreality and the Panthers started running together when grey Afro-ed original coach Roger Neilson rode his bike to his office in a former bingo parlor. Evidence they still hang together: Roberto Luongo and Sundays game against Vancouver.
Youve got the Panthers old new goalie playing against his newly old team less than two weeks after he was sent back from whence hed come nearly eight years ago. Part of the impetus: not being started in an outdoor game, The Heritage Classic vs. Ottawa.
Obviously it had something to do with it, Luongo said with a distinct pause after the first word. It put the wheels in motion. Who knows? I couldnt get a trade done for a year and a half, so I dont know how it happened in two days. But definitely something weird there was going on when I got back from the Olympics.
Yeah, the Panthers often have trouble bringing home the big Ws, but never bringing a big other W, as in Weird.
I dont know if itll mean more [to win], but its going to be weird, Luongo said. I was in that other locker room just a week and a half ago. Its the first time I was traded during the season so I dont know how Im going to feel, but its definitely going to feel weird.
When the Islanders shockingly traded Luongo to the Panthers, they did so at the 2000 NHL Draft. When then-general manager Mike Keenan traded Luongo, he kept alive the Panthers tradition of being draft day newsmakers by doing so at the 2006 draft (in Vancouver, no less).
Everybody knows everybodys tricks, Luongo said of Sunday. Its going to be more about mind games than anything else.
Former Panther and current Canuck David Booth said, Hes one of the best goalies around and I know hes happy to be back here. Last year all the talk was about our goalies so we thought it was over. Trades sometime come when you least expect them.
Which sounds similar to what Luongo said about Vancouver: Most of whats happened the last few years, whatever you expect, the opposite happens.
Luongo caught himself a couple of times using another W, we, when talking about Vancouvers season. Canadian media, recently in Boca Raton for the NHL general managers meetings, stayed to cover this matchup of the 2010 Olympics gold medal-winning goalie who came one win from being the first Stanley Cup-winning goalie for a Canadian-based team since Patrick Roy against a dissembled disaster.
We were playing really well. We were right where we wanted to be in December, he said. Guys started to fall down and get hurt. A lot of stuff happened around the team. You cant really put your finger on it. Its tough to see something like that, especially with the fact that weve always been battling at the top of the standings and stuff like that.
He stopped with a smile, Maybe I shouldnt say, we anymore.
Luongo summed up his time in Vancouver with, It was a great run, Im looking to move on. [Sunday] is going to be a good closure on it.