Should The King Play 60?July 22, 2011, by
Henrik Lundqvist probably had a sore head recently thanks to his bachelor party in Sweden. That’s fine. What we don’t want to see however, is the King getting a sore groin/knee/back/insert body part, next season. Which brings back to a question that gets asked every season: how many games is an acceptable amount for Lundqvist?
For the first time in his Rangers tenure, last season Lundqvist was able to fall back on a reliable, capable NHL backup. No question marks, just an experienced goaltender at his side that could be trusted to spell the perennial Vezina candidate when needed. The problem this time was that Marty Biron got injured. While Hank got rest and played less games than he had in several seasons he still ended the season playing 20+ in a row thanks to a lack of trust/readiness in the goalies in the system behind Biron.
With Biron fit and ready to resume his Rangers career what is this season’s magic number, the split, which the goalies get? Biron was an excellent acquisition for the Blueshirts who at one point last year even had a few Rangers fans thinking out loud about a goalie controversy (which, with all due respect to Biron was ridiculous) but the point remains that Biron delivered when he was fit.
How many games are too much for Lundqvist, a goalie that likes to play a lot? What number of games leaves Lundqvist well rested for the playoffs which the Rangers will likely enter with increased expectancy and – a legitimate consideration – what is a number that gives Lundqvist the best opportunity to add individual glory (hello Mr overdue Vezina) to potential team success? Whether players admit it or not, individual goals are important to them as, should Lundqvist win a Vezina or two (to go with a cup), the Hall and a jersey retirement become appealing realistic goals.
Are 60 games enough for the Rangers to rest their most important player while giving him an opportunity to chase personal glory? Can Marty Biron hold the fort for 20+ games? As well as improving the power play and integrating the new players (Rupp, Richards, Erixon etc), how many games the most critical goaltender to any franchise in the league plays remains one of the most important questions needing answering this summer.