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Category: Goaltending

Is it time for the Rangers to draft a goaltender?

The King

The Rangers are blessed with the King but shouldn’t assume he’s around forever.

The Rangers are in an enviable situation with Henrik Lundqvist manning their net at an age where he can continue playing at a high level for a long time behind what should be a contender for several seasons. The immediate future in net is bright, but those who think the club should sit back and rest on their laurels should be warned.

The Rangers need to begin seriously thinking about drafting a goalie for the future. Of course, their fingers may be a little burnt and their draft trigger finger a little hesitant given the disappointing outcomes from drafting Al Montoya, Antoine LaFleur, and Scott Stajcer, but the Rangers need to keep an eye on the future. This is made more apparent as current back up Marty Biron (no matter how talented) isn’t exactly a rookie himself either.

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Food for thought: Can the King keep streaking?

Can the King keep his streak alive?

Can the King keep his streak alive?

In my humble opinion, despite the absence of a Stanley Cup, Henrik Lundqvist is already the greatest goaltender ever to wear Ranger red white and blue. Likely to reach four hundred career wins with ease (health allowing), a legitimate chance at a Stanley Cup, and numerous additional Vezina’s, there won’t be much the superstar Swede won’t have achieved when all is said and done. His career is already proceeding at an unprecedented pace as a Ranger goaltender.

Right now, Lundqvist owns a pretty impressive NHL record. He is the first goaltender to win at least thirty games in seven seasons in a row to begin his NHL career. He’s been extending his own record for a season or two already. Here’s the food for thought: can he continue that impressive streak this year? Do you get a pass (aka an asterix next to your record) because of the shortened season?

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Lundqvist on pace to break Richter’s record next season

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Every time the Rangers flash Henrik Lundqvist’s stats on the TV during a game, especially the stat that shows that he’s won 30 games in each season so far, it makes me wonder how long it will be until Lundqvist holds the Rangers record for goaltender wins. Currently, Hank has 252 wins, good for third place all time among Rangers goalies.

Next on the list is Eddie Giacomin, who has 266 wins. Assuming there is a season, Hank should pass Eddie within the first two months of the season. Take a step back and think about that for a second. Hank has played seven full seasons, and has one shortened year ahead of him. When the season gets underway, Hank will pass Giacomin in less than eight full seasons. That’s impressive.

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Would Lundqvist benefit from extra rest or a season in Europe?

During the past few years, the trail of thought was that if the Rangers could find a way to get their All World goaltender extra rest, he would be better prepared for the grind of the playoffs. Last season saw the Rangers finally able to give Henrik Lundqvist extra rest (thanks to a healthy and reliable Martin Biron) and promptly the Rangers made the conference finals; their finest season in years.

It is worth considering whether, during the lockout, if Lundqvist would benefit from an extended break or whether he’d be better off padding up and getting back on the ice. Media reports have recently suggested Lundqvist may head back home to the Swedish Elite League. What is best for Lundqvist however is influenced by the potential length of the lockout, which right now, is like guessing the length of a piece of string.

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Justin’s 1st Annual Pre-season Top 30 Goaltenders List (10-1)

Well, here we are.  The final installment of the Pre-season Top 30 Goalie’s list.  It has been a fun ride, and in case you missed it, here are rankings 30-21 and 20-11.

Ladies and gentlemen…The 2012-2013 Pre-season Top 10.

10. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes- Mike Smith is someone who probably wouldn’t have factored into this list as recently as last pre-season.  He signed a discounted, short-term deal with the ‘Yotes to replace the departing Ilya Bryzgalov and it couldn’t have worked out better.  It seems the combination of Sean Burke and coming into his prime years finally allowed Smith to fulfill his potential.  He is starting to use his size and blocking skill to his fullest advantage, and he has cleaned up his positioning considerably.  I’d like to see a little bigger sample size before feeling completely comfortable with this ranking, but what I saw this year tells me Smith is capable of perennial Vezina caliber campaigns. Read more »

Justin’s 1st Annual Pre-season Top 30 Goaltenders List (20-11)

With numbers 30-21 taken care of, we move on to the middle segment of the Pre-Season Top 30 with numbers 20-11.  As always, make sure to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.

20. Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers – This one I know I’m going to get fileted for.  I know “Mr. Universe” is everyone’s favorite whipping boy, and we all take a little extra pleasure whenever a Flyer’s netminder struggles.  The bottom line however, is Bryzgalov is a solid goaltender.  As noted in my scouting report on Bryz last season, it’s his style that creates the perception.  While his skill level in no way validates his absurd contract, he is a solid positional netminder who I am confident will have a much better showing next season. Read more »

Justin’s 1st Annual Pre-season Top 30 Goaltenders List (30-21)

Welcome to Justin’s first annual Top-30 goalies list.  I hope you guys enjoy this little exercise, because it was an absolute blast to put together.  In this first edition, I will run down the goalies ranking 30-21.  Following this post, 20-11 and 10-1 will be revealed.

Before we get to it, I wanted to explain my methodology for compiling this list.  “Top” in this case is something of a moving target.  Basically, it’s the order in which I would want to see a team pursue a goaltending solution.  There are keepers included here for potential, durability, present value and experience.  For example, obviously Jose Theodore has accomplished more in the NHL than Jonathan Bernier at this point, and at present, I could entertain an argument that Theodore is a “better” goaltender.  However, Bernier has a ton of upside and star potential and I’m not going to sell him short because he hasn’t gotten his shot yet.  Ok, got all that?

Without further adieu, Goaltenders 30-21

30. Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles Kings- While Bernier might not have starting experience in the NHL as of yet, he certainly has the talent to excel in the role.  It seems the Kings are always on the verge of trading him so he can spread his wings in a place with more opportunity, but there is no such thing as too much quality goaltending. Read more »

In goal for the Los Angeles Kings, #32 Mike Richter?

Every Rangers fan who followed the team through that magical 1994 season has a nostalgic affection for Mike Richter.  He was the reason myself, and I’m sure countless others decided to put those bulky pads on and have chunks of frozen rubber shot at them.  He embodied everything that Rangers fans loved about that team. To say that his career was cut tragically short by concussions is an understatement.

During his peak years, he stacked up against the Brodeur’s, Roy’s and Hasek’s of the league.  He was an athletic marvel who made every save exciting and never ceased to amaze with his desire to keep the puck from crossing that red line. As the years have passed and the position has evolved, we have seen a stark decline in goalies that embody the excitement of the game.

The position has become a science, with every move deliberate and each save calculated.  Although reflexes and reaction time are still a part of the position, the advances in equipment and technique have made everything look a little too easy. While I feel that this is best for the position, some critics feel that is has sucked the soul out of goaltending.  Enter Jonathan Quick.

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To Biron or not to Biron (Part II)

On Monday, we looked at the most likely replacements for the backup goalie position should Marty Biron not be retained.  The first batch of options were the most likely names to get at least a look from the Rangers front office, but this time around, I wanted to look at some of the unconventional choices for the role.  All of these tenders would likely come cheap on short term contracts, always a plus for a role player.  As before, all stats are weighted, two-year composites of the major rate stats.

Without further adieu, my long shots…

Michael Leighton

Stat line: (All stats from Adirondack of the AHL) 86 GP, GAA 2.45, SV% .920

You might remember Michael Leighton from the 2009-2010 playoffs, backstopping the Philadelphia Flyers’ to the Stanley Cup Finals.  (Also, I found it awesome, because Philly made Boston understand what we Yankee fans felt back in ’04).  Outside of that season, where he was thrust into that role due to injuries, he has played the role of journeyman.  He continued this trend of no respect when he resigned with Philadelphia after that Finals run and found himself in the AHL behind Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky (really?).  He was again squeezed out this year with the arrival of Ilya Bryzgalov.

Leighton is a UFA this off-season, and while I still prefer Marty, he is an interesting dark horse for me.  I think from a scouting perspective, the 31 year old backstop has the skill set to be a quality second string keeper and I’m sure all it would take is a promise of an NHL job to secure his services.

Like most backups Leighton is fairly solid in all aspects of his game, with no skill really standing out.  Not that he would need the playoff experience playing behind Hank, but it’s always nice to know that he can get hot for an extended period like he did in 2010.  Obviously, Leighton replacing Biron is a long shot, but one of the better possible gambles on the cheap.

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To Biron or not to Biron (Part I)

On July 1, 2010, Glen Sather went out and secured the solid, veteran backup goalie that Henrik Lundqvist had never known.  For the past two seasons, Marty Biron has been the consummate professional, teammate and role player behind one of the game’s premier workhorses.  It’s no coincidence that Henrik Lundqvist had his strongest playoff performance in a year where he had his lowest regular season workload*.  This July, Biron is once again a UFA, and the question becomes, should he be retained, or should the Rangers look elsewhere for a quality backup?

The reason this post is being split into two parts is that as I was researching all the other possibilities, it kind of took on a life of its own.  Before I knew it I had nine possibilities for the Rangers to examine, plus several more who, while I don’t feel are realistic targets, could end up becoming options due to market conditions and/or salary and playing time demands.  So, in this post, I will make the case for Marty’s retention and then examine what I feel are the most realistic targets based on salary and role.  The second part of the post will have a couple more creative/non-conventional choices and we will see where we end up when the dust settles.  Got that?  Ok, let’s go.

Since Marty has been a Ranger for two seasons, I wanted to normalize the statistical comparisons, so all of the stats that will be referenced are weighted two-year averages of the major evaluating statistics (GP, GAA, SV%) and my own personal scouting reports.

The Case for Biron

Stat line: 38 GP, 2.31 GAA, .912 SV%, 2011-2012 Salary: $875,000

For the most part, we all know the book on Marty.  He is a rock solid backup who fits into the team culture and is completely comfortable in his role within the organization.  He received a relatively modest salary for his services (875k) the past two years, and since he is approaching his 35th birthday, he likely isn’t in line for a significant raise or starting job.

What surprised me in researching UFA goaltenders, is that with one or two exceptions, Marty has significantly better numbers than almost all available alternatives**.   The biggest argument in favor of Marty, assuming his dollar/term requirements are in line with his previous deal, is the old “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” argument.  We know what Marty brings to the table, and the organization and the fans seem to have a comfort level with him.  For a detailed scouting report on Biron, make sure to check out my previous analysis of his style here.

Now, onto some other possibilities… Read more »