A simple goalie controversy answer: There is none

December 2, 2013, by
Scott Levy, Getty Images

Scott Levy, Getty Images

If you read some of the papers this morning, then there is quite a bit going on about a goalie controversy here┬áin New York. It was solidified even more when coach Alain Vigneault announced that Cam Talbot is the starter for tonight’s game against Winnipeg. Talbot has been phenomenal in his first seven starts, and could push himself into the Calder conversation if his play continues. (That’s just a bad mistake on my part. Talbot is not eligible for the Calder, he is too old). Henrik Lundqvist is still an All-World goaltender, but he appears to be mortal this season. AV also noted that Hank is still the team’s #1 goaltender.

But let’s entertain this for a moment. Hank is struggling –somewhat– but his play recently has been more on par with what we’ve expected. Over his career Hank is a .920 SV% guy, and is currently at .917 SV%. That includes the San Jose and Anaheim games. Statistically he is on par with last season. So what’s the issue?

Well, Talbot’s play has forced the Rangers into rethinking their goalie strategy, or at least into giving Talbot more games. Talbot has allowed two goals or less in each of his starts this season, and has a ridiculous .944 SV% this season. His GAA of 1.44 is a full goal ahead of Hank’s 2.51 GAA, but some of that may have to do with how the Rangers play defense in front of each goalie (note: it changes). Suit outlined that here. Some of that definitely has to do with the 9-2 and 6-0 losses in California.

If Talbot gets more games, it is for multiple reasons. First, he’s earned it. Second, the schedule is condensed thanks to the Sochi Olympics in February, so Hank isn’t getting as much rest as he normally gets (with a competent backup, so look at the 2011-2012 season as a barometer). Third, the Rangers seem to play a more comfortable and familiar style in the defensive zone (see link above), so Talbot has been the beneficiary of some better defense.

But in the end, Talbot won’t keep up this kind of play. A .944 SV% is completely unsustainable, and it’s likely we will see him become more human as the season wears on. That said, it won’t affect his status as the backup goalie, and a very reliable backup goalie at that. Hank is still the starting goalie for this team, even if the 27-year-old Talbot has been lights out for a month. Nothing wrong with riding the hot hand.


  1. VinceR says:

    Is this possibly also a case of “very little scouting on the new guy” in terms of the opponent’s strategy?

  2. Brendan says:

    I wonder why not just play D the same way with Lundqvist as they do with Talbot?

    • Dave says:

      That’s a question for the coach. Or Suit.

      • The Suit says:

        There’s a couple of factors. Cam is 6’3 and plays on top of his crease, so I think he has an easier time seeing over guys. Hank is 6’0-6’1 and plays much deeper, so he tends to look around guys when he’s crouched.

        Of course, there’s also matchups too. You can tweak your net zone strategy when you play against guys of different heights. Defenses tend to front vs smaller players.

        With all that said, I don’t think either strategy can really be attributed to either player’s performances. Hank really hasn’t been getting beat in the net zone and Talbot hasn’t really had to face many too many odd man rushes.

  3. Chris F says:

    I thought Talbot doesn’t qualify as a rookie because of his age?

    I suspect any Ranger player vying for a Calder Trophy will be none other than the seasoned Kreider, who oddly still qualifies as a rookie despite this being his third season (if you include the 2012 playoff run).

  4. Evan M says:

    It seems like part of this controversy is coming from Hank, but leave it the NY media to make having two solid goaltenders a problem. If we had two 40+ goal scores would the controvery be too many goals? I’ll take this any day.

  5. Ray says:

    For now, I’d like to see something like a 50-50 split. Give Hank plenty of rest while Talbot is hot, especially in this Olympic year. And if Talbot is for real, than we find out before the Rangers have to make a long term commitment to their goaltender.

  6. Scully says:

    I’m still in this camp:

    Henrik’s play historically pics up dramatically in the winter, and with the next month of play being almost exclusively at home I look for that to happen again.

    Also, the Rangers seem to be scoring a lot more for Talbot than for Lundqvist, which has led to some games where Lundqvist has only looked mortal because he’s absolutely needed to be immortal to win.

    I think that Talbot has a chance to be a really really good starter AND will be one of the best trade chips in the NHL. I don’t think this is a Beezer or Ricter situation just yet, but It would be nice to have a goalie on staff that can spell Hank more and more as he gets a bit older.

    Hank’s only 31. His game has been very good this season, it just hasn’t been great. We’re spoiled with him the same way Yankee fans have been spoiled with Mariano all these years. He’ll pick it up this month, or I’ll eat a pair of brand new CCM skates minus the blades.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Yeah only Rivera had 4 championships by age 31. Just saying…

  7. Chuck A says:

    This truly could be a 64 million dollar question!

  8. Mikeyyy says:

    Reminds me of beezer and Ricky

    When your all alone pick up the phone.

    Who you gonna call?