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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers are hoping that this season is the beginning of a long run of playoff years.
Led by their young core group of players, such as Aleksander Barkov (20), Jonathan Huberdeau (22), Nick Bjugstad (23), Vincent Trocheck (22) and Aaron Ekblad (19), the Panthers feel it’s only a matter of time before these ‘kids’ propel the team to reach new heights year after year.
Currently Florida holds an 8-7-3 record, good four fourth place in the Atlantic Division where second and seventh place are separated by just four standings points.
While the majority of the Panthers roster are guys who are 25 years old or younger, there is a veteran presence on the team that is helping the lesser experienced guys learn how to have long and successful NHL careers.
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo is one of those players.
At 36, he’s the oldest starting goalie in the NHL. Based on his play since being re-acquired by the Panthers in March of 2014, it wouldn’t be difficult to believe that he’s ten years younger than he actually is.
On Monday Luongo picked up his first shutout of the season, a 39-save effort in a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the 69th of his career.
So far this season there are 27 goalies in the NHL with at least 10 starts. Only five of those 27 have a higher save percentage than Luongo at .926.
He has been about as steady as you could hope for from a starting goaltender and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Luongo knows what it takes to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well.
He led his former team, the Vancouver Canucks, to the postseason in five of his first six years with the club, including a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011.
Luongo ranks first among active goalies with 878 career games. The next closest is Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers who has played in 634 games.
He has 407 victories, a career save percentage of .919 and goals against average of 2.50.
The 407 wins are tied with Glenn Hall for 8th on the all-time list. He needs 16 wins to tie the next man on the list, Tony Esposito.
His career goals against average is lower than several legendary goalies, such as Patrick Roy (2.54), Grant Fuhr (3.38), Terry Sawchuck (2.51) and Esposito (2.92).
Luongo should be considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame when his career is all said and done, but that could still be several years away.
He still has six years left on his contract after this season and as long as he continues playing at a high level, the Panthers should have no problem keeping him between the pipes.
The Panthers face the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, November 19th at 7:30 p.m. You can hear every game on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, the radio home of the Florida Panthers.
Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork)