At the moment the Rangers are –to an extent– treading water in the standings, but luckily they are not far away from the right end of the Eastern Conference. With Rick Nash healthy and dominant and the Rangers generally getting healthier, things look a lot more promising than just a week ago; especially when you consider the record with Nash in the line up (10-5-1) as opposed to out of it (0-3-1). What the Rangers really need now, is their most important player to get back to his own lofty standards; time to find your old self Henrik Lundqvist.
The reigning Vezina winner was solid against the Sabres, clutch in the shootout and during the extended period shorthanded, but once again he let in goals that Henrik Lundqvist normally wouldn’t let in. Lundqvist hasn’t been bad, and his numbers are solid, but he’s not stealing points, robbing players or making saves when the Rangers need them most. In short, he’s not in his usual Vezina trophy candidate form. To be fair, it’s tough to ask a goalie to be Vezina caliber for their entire career, but it’s what we’ve expected, like Yankee fans and Mariano.
Lundqvist isn’t suffering from any injury we know of, nor should we doubt his legendary focus and desire, he’s missing a little bit from his game. While that is a slight concern, it’s also exciting for Rangers fans. When Rick Nash is on, when the roster is close to full health this team wins games. They may not have the same edge as last year’s squad and perhaps need to find a little more nastiness, but they’re winning games. Throw in a Lundqvist in full beast mode and you’ve got yourselves the contender that so many expected before the season started. There is plenty of room for improvement for both Lundqvist and the team as a whole. That’s a good thing.
Lundqvist hasn’t been able to carry the Rangers during their down form this year. With injuries mounting and offensive production drying up, the Swede hasn’t been the thief in net that he can be. That said, a .918 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA are numbers that most goaltenders would be delighted to boast about. Not Lundqvist. Rangers fans and the goalie himself are used to more, used to better caliber goaltending and the fans are probably spoiled by having Lundqvist in net.
There’s no doubt that Lundqvist can regain his best form this season. Assuming continued health for he and the team, he has the tools at his disposal to regain that Vezina form. Playing to an elite level is what he’s done his entire career and he’s usually played his best hockey down the stretch. If he can do that again, there are no worries about making the playoffs for this team.
We always talk about regression and progression to the mean. Right now, Lundqvist is playing below is career averages. Can you imagine a Rangers team with Lundqvist progressing back to his career mean? It’s scary.