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As we all know by now, the Rangers have gotten off to a slow start this season. One of the more surprising factors in Blueshirt’s early malaise was the rather pedestrian play of all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. It wasn’t necessarily that he was playing outright badly, just far below the lofty expectations that the fan base has for #30. After posting his first shutout of the year in Washington on Wednesday night, the fan base was able to relax a bit about the form of our number-one keeper.
Buried in a quality post-game piece by Pat Leonard of the Daily News, Hank was quoted as making a small but significant adjustment to his game for the tilt in Washington: he took an extra step out from the goal line for positioning purposes. Hank was quoted on the subject as follows:
“It was more on face-offs I took a step out. My positioning on the ‘D’ shots was a little bit better. A couple times in the early games I got caught deep in my net. That’s the way I play, but there’s been a lot of deflections, (so) you want to come out a little bit more, and today it worked for me.”
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It’s always easier to write the Musings after a win. Last night was a huge relief to many Rangers fans so let’s talk about it.
John Moore: If Moore continues with performances like last night’s against the Capitals, then he could quickly go past Michael Del Zotto in the pecking order. A quick release, a good overall game and solid defensively, Moore still has a ton of upside to be explored. His skating is very good and his upside is exciting. You get the feeling he could prosper under Alain Vigneault.
Mats Zuccarello is a very good hockey player but he’s surely on shaky ground as a Ranger. Yes, the season is but six games old but he’s brought next to nothing to the table, and that’s despite being on a scoring line. He’s averaging close to 17 minutes a game which is plenty. He’s not even averaging a shot/game at this stage. If he’s not producing give a prospect those 17 minutes per game.
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Lundqvist: must do better. (Bennett/Getty)
Henrik Lundqvist seems to have forgotten how to control rebounds, and his decision making around the net has been abysmal. Martin Biron can’t even stop a shot from the blueline. Every aspect of the Rangers (Brad Richards aside) has been awful to start the year, but it has to start and end in net, and the Rangers are nowhere near good enough in goal so far. It’s been that bad that maybe Glen Sather is reducing his next contract offer to Henrik Lundqvist as we speak.
To be fair, the Rangers defense has been almost as bad; coverage has been terrible, positioning and decision making even worse, and the Rangers goaltending tandem have had opposing players open in front and have often faced far too high a quality of shot. That said, it comes back to your goaltender giving you a chance and neither goalie has done that so far.
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Best case: Johnson is an adequate depth defender and is significantly better than Stu Bickel in spot duty.
Worst case: Johnson is no better than Bickel and the Rangers are back where they were last year if top-six blueliners get hurt.
Best case: Stralman continues to be an unsung hero for the Blueshirts and finally earns the attention he deserves with a standout campaign, including some gaudy power play numbers.
Worst case: Stralman’s hold on the #6 job loosens and Justin Falk pushes him for playing time. Read more »
Henrik Lunqdvist’s next deal – pivotal?
When Sidney Crosby signed his last contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins he did so without huge fanfare, while signing for a large amount of money over a significant period of time. Some wondered why the Penguins took the risk given Crosby’s recent history but the fact remained, the Penguins locked up arguably the best center in hockey.
While signing on the dotted line, Crosby left dollars on the table. Whether it would have been with Pittsburgh or elsewhere Crosby could have named his price to all 30 NHL clubs (yes Crosby haters, ALL 30) and each team would have begged him to sign. In a financial world where Crosby could have signed for an annual cap hit of $12.86m (20% of the current cap) he signed for a cap hit of 8.7m. Not chump change for sure but clearly money ‘given up’.
When Crosby signed on the dotted line he clearly cashed in (a twelve year extension worth an 8.7m cap hit is clearly ‘cashing in’) but he also made sure the club were given some financial wiggle room. He notably didn’t take the maximum contract on offer and in doing so set the tone for others within the franchise to perhaps do the same.
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Per Bob McKenzie, the biggest obstacle for the Rangers and locking up franchise goalie Henrik Lundqvist won’t be dollars, but it years:
Bob McKenzie: And that’s also the thorny issue there could be withHenrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. When Henrik Lundqvist‘s current deal expires and he’s on an extension, he’ll be 33-years-old on the first year of that extension. Do you want to give a 33-year-old goaltender, as good as Henrik Lundqvist is and as much as he means to the New York Rangers, a long-term deal or do you want it shorter?
The emphasis here is on the word could in the first sentence. McKenzie is absolutely right, the only real sticking point will be term, not dollars. Hank is going to get more than the $7 million given to Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne, that’s a given. If New York gives him eight years, that puts him through to his age-41 season. Hank has shown no signs of slowing down, but goaltenders do tend to break down in their mid-to-late-thirties.
Again, emphasis is on the word could. It could be a problem, it might night not be a problem.
What’s the status of Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin?
Both players underwent surgery on torn shoulder labrums following the 2013 season and their initial recovery timelines indicated they could each miss the first month of the 2013-2014 season. However, both Callahan and Hagelin have been skating with teammates in the weeks leading up to training camp and have reported no setbacks. Neither is ready for contact just yet, but they both seem to be progressing quickly. It’s still a good bet that neither player will be ready for the season-opener, but we should get a clearer picture of their status during camp. Read more »
Welcome to the final installment of the annual Top 30. It’s been a fun ride over the long summer months, but with hockey season upon us, let’s take a gander at the Top 10. In case you missed it, here are parts one and two. Before we get to the best tenders in the land, let’s take a look at the final two tenders who were relieved from their Top 30 duties of a year ago…
Miikka Kiprusoff- Retired: The reason Kipper is no longer on the list is pretty obvious: he chose to retire at the end of last season, even vetoing a trade to the Maple Leafs prior to calling it quits. The Finnish keeper was #15 on the list last season, and surely would have made another appearance had he not decided to hang ‘em up.
Nikolai Khabibulin- Chicago Blackhawks: The Bulin Wall checked in at #26 last season, when he was getting fairly consistent reps in Edmonton. However, since he decided to take on the role of veteran backup behind the newly extended Corey Crawford, he is sure to see his playing time significantly reduced. While I believe Khabby is still a solid keeper, the role change really forced my hand.
With that out of the way, ladies and gentlemen, rankings 10-1… Read more »
A goaltender actually worth his salary: The King
Corey Crawford got $6m per year long term? I think it’s clear at this stage that Henrik Lundqvist is going to get a serious pay rise. Some goaltenders are products of great teams (Crawford, a good but not great goalie may be exhibit A here) and some are great goaltenders who make teams better – a la Lundqvist. Unless he signs a team friendly deal Lundqvist will easily walk away as an 8m player.
Traverse City I: My intrigue is squarely focussed on Danny Kristo and Oscar Lindberg. Really need to see these guys dominate at this level. They’ll need to if they think they stand a chance at getting immediate shots at the NHL level.
Traverse City II: It will also be very important to see guys such as Conor Allen and Tommy Hughes and how these guys cope with the step up in competition. The Rangers need to start bringing through the next wave of defensive prospects when you consider the potentially uncertain futures of Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman. Without being able to get their hands on college guys such as Brady Skjei it’s important that the Rangers can develop players themselves.
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The NHL released its All Star teams today, and Henrik Lundqvist was the lone representative from the Rangers, named to the second All Star Team. Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky beat him out for the First All Star team. The PHWA votes on these teams, and named Alex Ovechkin to two different teams at two different positions…so take this with a grain of salt.