Can Henrik Lundqvist rebound after a down year?

October 2, 2017, by

henrik lundqvist

Last year, Henrik Lundqvist was the talk of the town. It wasn’t because of his usual stellar play, though. It was due to his inability to keep the Rangers in games, especially later in the season. There were multiple times when Lundqvist allowed “weak” game tying or game winning goals. At least, that’s the way his play last season was perceived.

Make no mistake, Lundqvist had a down season last year. He wasn’t his usual self, able to make the difficult saves look easy and the impossible saves look somewhat challenging. He posted his worst SV% of his career at .910, and it was the first time in seven seasons that he posted a SV% below .920.

Hank has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his ability to rebound, though. Even at 35 years old, it didn’t appear to be his skills that slowed. He was often caught leaning, beat by simple shots from medium or low danger that he normally would stop. That doesn’t necessarily signify slowing skills.

For any goalie, trust in the defense to force the shot is critical. After years of being forced to make the difficult saves, going post to post to stop point blank shots, and being unable to rely on his defense to clear the third, fourth, and fifth chances, perhaps that is what changed. Instead of anticipating the shot, he was caught leaning for the pass. When you’re caught leaning in the NHL, you get beat clean. It happened often.

This is just a theory, and it’s a sound theory based off the blue lines the Rangers have trotted out there the past three seasons. It’s also a theory that can be tested this season. If it truly was the Swiss cheese defense that Hank could no longer cover up, then theoretically he should rebound with a revamped blue line this year (this also assumes Alain Vigneault doesn’t play Staal/Holden together, separate, often, or at all).

The general hope –assumption– is that Lundqvist will rebound back to a .920 SV% goalie. He will revert back to the original Hank that stops the medium danger shots, an area in which he struggled last season, while being above average at stopping the high danger shots.

There is always the possibility that what we saw last season was what the future holds with Henrik Lundqvist. Goalies generally don’t age well, but the elite ones are still capable into their late thirties. Lundqvist isn’t in his late thirties yet, but he’s knocking on the door. All the improvements made on the blue line won’t mean much if Lundqvist doesn’t rebound, or worse, regresses.

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Categories : Players


  1. SalMerc says:

    Getting older and playing with pylons tends to make goalies look worse than they really are.

  2. Rangers head says:

    I think Hank will score 40 goals this year

  3. Creature Feature says:

    Hank showed some signs last year of a diminished game, but also was able to outplay Price against Montreal. This is a team sport, where your goalie should only need to make 1 or 2 spectacular saves a game. Hank was tested from the slot more and more as our defenders tired and aged.

    My concern this year is that, if we play a more aggressive game, there will be far to many odd man rushes against him, making him look like he is falling off his game. I think he should play 55-59 games, and never back to back.

  4. Ray says:

    Hank has always lacked emotional stamina. The indicators last year are that he can still play at the same level as he did in the past, but that it takes a greater effort and so he is just more fragile. Playing 50-55 games and 16 more games in the postseason (which means the backup gets maybe two games a series), he could likely be the Lundqvist of yore, but that isn’t going to happen – even if Pavelek is up to the expanded role (which I fear he is not).

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      This is a guy who has been mostly sensational in post season under the most duress I can ever recall any NY athlete ever being under, pretty much year after year in the playoffs. I’m not sure how you can conclude he lacks “emotional stamina”. I’m not even sure what that means.

      I think back to the Rangers deep playoff runs in 2012, 2014 and 2015. He was THE primary reason those runs happened. In the latter two, his play helped to spearhead remarkable comebacks vs the Pens and Caps. Two straight years rallying back down 3-1. Never been done before. And he’s been arguably the best Game 7 goaltender of all time, and wins these games with historically minimal offensive contributions. And certainly no stars around him to carry a proportional load. An athlete with poor “emotional stamina” could not do that. If anythng, Hank has superior stamina—emotional or otherwise.

      Now, he IS getting older and he is coming off his worst year. No doubt. No one can know for sure what the future holds. But I’ve always been of the belief that great players, especially a future HOFer like Hank, will dust himself off and have a big bounce back season.

      We’d better hope so, because if not, then this team will not make the playoffs.

      How much to play him is tough to say. Hank thrives on work. We have no idea how good Pavelec will be. Just hard to say right now.

      • Ray says:

        The Penguins won the Cup by going 16-9 over a spell of 25 games. Ideally, you want a goaltender who is up for all 25 games. That is unreasonable I suppose and we can accept a goalie who has a clinker in a game or two — four absolute tops.

        The whole Game 7 thing – showing what Hank can do when he is totally focused – should remind you of just how infrequently that happens. He cannot hold the zone. The 3-1 Penguin series was amazing. The 2006 Olympic gold likewise. But they were not the grind of four rounds.

        Consider Glenn Hall in 1968, JS Giguere in 2003, Tim Thomas in 2011. Each of those could have won a Cup with the Ranger skaters of the last five years. Careerwise, Hank has certainly exceeded the latter two, but they were superlative for just the right length of time.

        And you can see the problem just looking at Hank. Watch him lose to Canada in the Olympics — fights tooth and nail for half the game, but then realizes that the game is lost and becomes a sieve. And he was absolutely magnificent in Game 1 against Ottawa until a fluke goal bounced off his back. Hank said to himself, “If I can’t win playing at this level, what’s the point?” He never recovered and lost a series that Raanta likely would have won. [I’m not arguing AV should have played Raanta.]

        • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

          I agree with you on Tim Thomas. Greatest goaltending performance in the SC Playoffs of the post-lockout era. But I’ll put Hank right up there with anyone in this era.

          I think you are dabbling in a great deal of supposition and speculation. I doubt seriously Hank “gave up” after Game 1 vs Ottawa. And I certainly vehemently disagree that Raanta would have made any difference. The difference in that series was our “elite beasts”—Kreider, Miller and Hayes…and Stepan too, failed to show up. Their best player, who actually IS an elite beast (Karlsson) did. Along with a few others. That’s why they advanced and we didnt. That was not on Hank.

        • King Sieveqvist! King Sieveqvist! King Sieveqvist! says:

          hey that’s my word 😉 …. how dare you call Cho-king a sieve !!

  5. wwpd says:

    maybe I got this backwards, but don’t goalies start to cheat anticipating the pass when their athletic skills are slipping and they can no longer count on the speed and reaction time to go post-to-post cleanly? not a one size fits all answer perhaps, but if you still have the skills to make the hard plays, why cheat and give up the easy ones ?

    • Dave says:

      I phrased that poorly. Tried to say Hank may have been cheating because he didn’t have faith that the defense would stop the pass, thus he’d get caught leaning.

      • wwpd says:

        Got you. I’m sure Gorton can help clean up any noise in Hank’s game. Hopefully it is all metal.

  6. Lace says:

    I think Hank had the best season of his career 2 seasons ago. He led the NHL in ES Sv% and with a really bad defense in front of him. Had the PK even been average he could have had Vézina numbers that year.
    I think it was the defense that got to him. No goalie can make a big save when his defense cannot cover the back door.