Lundqvist has been in the top-six for games played by a goalie in all but one of the last eight seasons
Though much has changed with the New York Rangers over the last 12 months, one thing remains the same: the team goes as Henrik Lundqvist goes.
During the early part of the season when the Blueshirts were regularly getting crushed by Western Conference foes, The King was not himself. And not coincidentally, during the second half of the year when the club came together, Lundqvist returned to his usual Vezina form. Now Lundqvist has raised his game again, to an otherworldly level that no other netminder alive can approach, and suddenly the team is on the cusp of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Lundqvist’s talent, focus and desire are obviously keys to his success and have never been in question. But how much of his recent run is due to coach Alain Vigneault’s insistence on giving his backups – first Martin Biron, then Cam Talbot – a larger workload this season?
Lundqvist has shouldered an absurdly high workload in recent years, especially now that he’s no longer a young pup. Including playoffs, he’s started 597 games and logged 32,945 minutes over the last eight seasons and has finished in the top-six in games played for a goalie in all but one of those years. (Lundqvist played a staggering 3,331 minutes in the condensed lockout-shortened season, and played 5,005, 4,353, 4,204, 4,533, 4,913, 4,746 minutes in his previous six seasons, respectively).
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Smiles for Miles. (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)
Picture it: it’s a beautiful late spring day in New York City, sundress weather, lunchtime in Midtown with tons of people relaxing in the middle of another work day. All of a sudden, you get a text. Then another. And another, followed by NHL alerts. Your coach has just been fired after a slaughter of an exit from the Eastern Conference Semi’s in five games.
If you’re a diehard Rangers fan, you respond in one of two ways: joyous applause or incredulous anger and questioning. If you’re this girl, it’s the second. Of all the things that came out of my mouth while walking to grab lunch that day, some examples are: How could they do this? Why is Sather’s job safe but no coach can get a break? Who the [expletive] will replace him? They’re gonna hire some scrub and the Rangers’ talent is gonna go to waste. I adored John’s passion and fire, and I thought his gritty style of coaching was #therightway. Maybe because my greatest coaches have been like that, maybe cause hockey just seems so hard.
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After dispatching the Penguins and Bruins, respectively, the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Each team will be looking for their first Stanley Cup championship since the early 90’s, and will face one another for the first time since 1996. The two teams are actually relatively similar. They rely on speed, depth, balance and will lean heavily on their world-class goaltenders.
Montreal’s, as well as know, is Carey Price. Price has had quite the season thus far, leading a Canadiens squad with relatively low expectations to a 100 point season, a Conference Finals birth, and an Olympic Gold Medal in Sochi. He is going to be a formidable task for the Blueshirts if they plan to chase the ultimate prize. Let’s see how his game stacks up…
Format is the same as always; Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck Handling and Exploitable Weaknesses. Read more »
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
It’s always difficult to evaluate a player’s postseason performance. Stakes are high. Blood pressures are through the roof. Sample sizes are small. Right now opinions of our top forwards range from “hey their puck possession numbers are terrific, they’re just not scoring,” to “they **** suck, trade them!” As always, somewhere between apathy and empathy is where reality lies.
For me, I don’t think any of these guys deserve the vitriol they’re receiving, but that’s not to say they don’t need to play better. They need to step it up and if they do not, they shouldn’t be immune from criticism, so long as it’s constructive.
Right now, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and to some extent Derek Stepan aren’t playing to their capabilities. And make no mistake, unless these guys go full throttle from here on out, we can kiss our Cup dreams goodbye.
The problem is I don’t see one consistent issue with all of these players. Everyone’s troubles seem a little different and that puts AV in a tough spot. And that’s not to suggest AV should get a pass. He’s wallpaper at this point, but that’s an article for another day.
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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America
So far in the playoffs (a few hiccups aside) and after every additional game, Anton Stralman is getting more expensive for the New York Rangers to retain. As such, the team should already be considering moving on from the solid yet unspectacular blueliner.
If rumours are true that Stralman rejected a three year, $9 million dollar deal from the Rangers back in March, then he’s already auditioning for July’s free agency. Over the past few months Stralman’s value certainly won’t have lessened and Stralman’s agent will also know about the general lack of quality blueliners available this summer. It should certainly be a seller’s market (and another reason the Rangers need to handle Marc Staal’s contract situation as a matter of priority).
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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
Note: Goal breakdown will be up this afternoon. Sorry about the delay.
The Rangers won in impressive style in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Impressive because they were hard on the puck, they were opportunistic but most importantly when they lost their lead, they didn’t panic and worked their way back in to a solid position. They handled – at least for game one – the surges that eventually came from Pittsburgh over the final two periods. The Rangers were around Fleury all night which resulted in the game winning goal but which also begs the question; why can’t the powerplay convert?
We’ve mentioned it before but Benoit Pouliot (surely the recipient of a shiny new deal from the Rangers this summer) goes hard to the net and he gets rewarded. The Rangers best line of Zuccarello – Brassard – Pouliot are consistently a creative force and something that is missing from the powerplay, their line is always moving, always busy and always looking for the puck. The fact is, game one of this series would have been won well before overtime had the Rangers managed to convert on the powerplay. The talent is there, the execution isn’t.
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Hey Suit – You’re Welcome
Before I get started with today’s topic, I first want to take moment to thank Danny Carcillo for making me look good. Last week I called for AV to scratch Fast for Carcillo for Game 3. Most slayed the idea. Then Game 4 happened.
Back to this week’s topics!
Today we’re reaching into our mailbag, aka our Twitter mentions to answer questions from our faithful readers.
Q. What do the Rangers have to do to put the Flyers away in Game 6? – @Rangrs2000
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Zuccarello’s here to stay
It goes without saying that the Rangers – barring unforeseen circumstances – will be offering leading scorer Mats Zuccarello a new deal in the summer. Zuccarello was a creative spark when he returned from the KHL last year and has been a stunning surprise this year – no one foresaw Zuccarello leading the Rangers offensively. With all that said, has Zuccarello done enough to warrant a long term commitment from the Rangers?
As a restricted free agent, Zuccarello doesn’t have a significant amount of leverage but sometimes numbers do speak for themselves. Zuccarello established career highs in every meaningful offensive statistic while his line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot was the Rangers most consistent all season long. On an inconsistent powerplay Zuccarello was one of the few constants.
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If a trade was judged purely on previous production there would have been a lot more complaints the day the Rangers traded away Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein. Luckily, the Ranger fan base is (on the whole) more informed than that.
Looking back at Glen Sather’s acquisition of Kevin Klein, it would be easy to assume Sather gave up on Del Zotto (which was true to an extent) but a more appropriate way of looking at it would be how Sather was able to BETTER balance his defense when he brought Klein on board.
While Klein’s 6 points, +4 rating and 36 hits are not jaw dropping numbers the good ol’ fashioned eye test helps to review his game. Klein has generally impressed with his decision making and ability to make a solid defensive play consistently. His positioning has been consistently good and his ability under pressure has been strong. Klein has no problem taking a hit to make a play and has been a solid addition for the Rangers. No longer do Ranger fans hold their collective breath like they did when Del Zotto wandered around his own zone.
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Courtesy of NHL.com
The party is over. The Rangers had a chance to jump to a 2-0 lead and instead will go into Philly with the series evened up. It will be critical for the Rangers to come back to NY with at least one win, but it won’t be easy. The Rangers are 57-64-14-3 for road playoff games. They’re also 10-17 in the postseason at Philadelphia.
What will make these next two games especially tough goes beyond the atmosphere and fan hostilities. The real difficulty will be for Alain Vigneault to get the right matchups on the ice, as the home team gets the last change.
If I’m Craig Berube, I’d be looking forward to returning home where he’ll get a better chance at trying to separate the Giroux and Hartnell line from McDonagh and Girardi. I’d also be looking to amp up the physicality. The Flyers seemed to play better yesterday when they adjusted their forecheck to be a bit harder.
For these reasons, it might be time for AV to sit Fast for Carcillo or Miller so the Rangers can match the Flyers energy.
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