Although he has been criticized –especially early in the season– and he is without a shutout (yet), could Henrik Lundqvist quietly have moved into the Vezina candidates once again, this season?
With Craig Anderson and his other worldly numbers surely out of contention because a lack of games (16 games is surely not enough to warrant consideration), Lundqvist has a few key differences to most of his Vezina competition this year. For the most part he’s suffered from a lack of goal support, while he has also had to battle to keep his team in the playoff mix.
Of goaltenders that have started 25 games or more, only Tuukka Rask has a better GAA than The King, while Lundqvist boasts the league’s best save percentage (again, discounting Anderson’s 16 game assault on the statistics). Then there’s the good old fashioned win column. The King has 17 wins which given his lack of goal support (The Rangers sit 26th overall in goal scored) is impressive, and places Lundqvist 6th overall. With guys such as Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price playing on clubs having more successful seasons than the Rangers, it’s hard not to respect the numbers the Rangers goalie has quietly assembled. However, how much will the lack of shutouts hurt his case for Vezina nomination?
Whatever way you look at it, Henrik Lundqvist continues to carry the Rangers and continues to be the league’s most important goaltender. You could take Fleury out of Pittsburgh and the team likely continues to win at the same rate. The same can be argued with Rask in Boston. While the Rangers have made changes before and during this season and have a fine roster now and for the future, their success is very dependent on Lundqvist.
A few names will no doubt be in the mix come Vezina time. Nicklas Backstrom has re-emerged in Minnesota to have a strong year, Tuukka Rask has made Boston forget about Tim Thomas, while Carey Price and Marc Andre Fleury are having equally fine seasons. But the longer this season has gone on Lundqvist has increasingly been elite. If the King can keep up his recent sensational form (with the crowning performance being in Carolina Saturday) he will no doubt once again garner significant support for another Vezina trophy, something that would be richly deserved.