The Florida Panthers are already holding their breath to see if starting goaltender Roberto Luongo is healthy after suffering an injury in the teams season opener.
It’s a brand new season for the Florida Panthers and expectations have risen after a great offseason. After missing the playoffs by one point last season, the Panthers were ready to kick off a new year by opening the season against their in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning.
Everything looked great early on with a 1-0 lead on the road before a shot by Steven Stamkos caught goaltender Roberto Luongo up in the collarbone that sent him to the ice. Fortunately, it was just a stinger, and Luongo was just fine to continue playing. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case for very long. During a net-mouth scramble just a few minutes later, Mark Pysyk and forward Frank Vatrano collided into each other and Vatrano fell on top of Luongo’s right leg, bending it at an awkward angle.
The 39-year-old Luongo would leave the ice not return to the game. He is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury until more details are acquired.
James Reimer would have to come in to replace Luongo midway through the second period, and would make 15 saves on 16 shots in an eventual 2-1 shootout loss to the Lightning. The loss can’t be blamed on the injury, especially with no goals from Florida’s newly touted offense after the first period.
Luongo’s health was the concern all offseason long for the Panthers, and already in game one are those fears realized. Now this injury could either be nothing and Luongo could be back shortly, or this could mean he’s out for a while, and you can never be too sure what the straw that breaks the camels back could be for a 39-year-old goaltender with a recent history of injuries. Luongo was only able to play 35 games last season due to limitations from a lower-body injury, and this latest injury could re-aggravate something that could keep him out long-term.
If this injury does turn out to be long-term, can James Reimer step up to the plate and handle the workload in Luongo’s absence? If the past few seasons are any indication, it should just be more of the same since he came to Florida. Reimer has played more than 42 games the past seasons after coming into the year on a backup role to fill in for Luongo, and he’s performed admirably in both years, posting decent .920 and .913 save percentages.
With the Panthers being expected to make the playoff this season, Luongo going to down in the very first game would be a tragic start. Even though he’s 39, he can still take this team as far as his body will allow him, but how much longer can his body hold up?. Hopefully, the injury isn’t as serious as it looks, but that could be wishful thinking with the way that knee bent.