When the playoffs started this year, many blogs and writers in the media were questioning the Rangers and their ability to perform as a top seed. It wasn’t because of their skill or style of play, but it was because Henrik Lundqvist “wasn’t a playoff goalie.” Their claims weren’t that far fetched, as his stats in the playoffs did take a bit of a nosedive in the past few postseasons. Only that seven game series against Washington in 2009 stands out as a series where Lundqvist carried them.
This year is different. This year Lundqvist is different. But most imporantly, the supporting cast for Lundqvist is different.
Prior to this season, the Rangers had tremendous roster turnover from season to season, sometimes reaching as high as 10 players. The Rangers were rebuilding, but because of some shrewd moves and the goaltending of The King, the Rangers were a playoff team. The teams weren’t necessarily built to succeed in the playoffs, and it showed. They lacked skill, speed, toughness, grit, physicallity, and a scoring touch. Those are a lot of holes for a goaltender to fill, even if he is the best in the world.
This year is different. The roster didn’t turnover too much. The Rangers have an identity as a physical, hard working team that will play defense. Lundqvist no longer needs to stand on his head every single game for the Rangers to win. More importantly, the addition of Martin Biron has led to a more rested Lundqvist. A rested Lundqvist is a better Lundqvist, and it shows.
Last night was a microcosm of the way Lundqvist has played in the first three games of this series. People will point to allowing five goals in the first two games, and say he has been mediocre. Those are people that aren’t watching the games, and are just noting the final score.
Lundqvist has not allowed a single shot to beat him. He has been beat by deflections and bad breaks. Everyone was up in arms when he allowed three goals in Game Two. But as Suit noted in the breakdown post one was a deflection, and the others were bad bounces or defensive breakdowns that benefited the Senators with open nets.
Ottawa has had a minimum of 32 shots on goal in each of the first three games this series, and a total of 103 shots on goal. Lundqvist has stopped all but five of them this series. That gives him an incredible .951 SV% in this series. It’s not like these are easy shots either. The Senators owned the Rangers in the past two games, and many of these have been high quality shots from the slot. That save on Kyle Turris last night in the final minute was just one of the many difficult saves Lundqvist has made.
The haters and the doubters said Hank couldn’t perform in the postseason. He said he could never carry a team on his back. Well guess what? That’s exactly what he’s doing right now.