Is AV still looking to point his players in the right direction?
If any conclusions can be drawn from the apparent goaltending ‘drama’ that has been going on in New York it is that Alain Vigneault is still getting to know his team and he’s still learning which buttons to press with which players. Henrik Lundqvist is usually harder on himself than anyone else could be; such is his will to win. He won’t have been happy backing up Cam Talbot for Monday’s depressing defeat against the Jets but if the result is a hot streak from Lundqvist who are we to second guess the decision?
While some prefer to focus on a controversy, Cam Talbot is someone that has clearly grown with every start and you can see his confidence grow with every save – despite the defeat last night. It appears that Vigneault may be flirting with a goalie controversy but is it just a coach still familiarising himself with the assets at his disposal? Could it even be a message to the rest of the team rather than the star goaltender?
For those paying attention, Vigneault has prodded countless players over the past few weeks and months and given the middling results so far this season that is exactly what he should be doing. The Michael Del Zotto situation has been one where the coach has been unafraid to publicly challenge a player to be better. Vigneault has publicly expressed his opinion on Benoit Pouliot while players such as Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin and John Moore have been asked for more from the coach publicly. With the inconsistent and at times disappointing performances from numerous players on the roster this season it stands to reason that the coach will look to coach and prod his players for better performances.
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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 in 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?
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Scott Levy/Getty Images
We’ve received some feedback over the past few weeks that readers are looking for a more objective viewpoint on hot-button Rangers issues. In our insatiable desire to please our readership, I’ve decided to start the Playing devil’s advocate series, looking at both sides of major debates and lending our own conclusion.
For the inaugural edition of Playing devil’s advocate, I’ve decided to tackle the great Henrik Lundqvist debate (did you really think I would start with anything else?). I’m going to break down both sides of the argument as to whether he is still elite, and whether trading the King makes any sense.
Considering The King’s looming free agency and slow start to the season, the debate about whether he is worth investing heavily in after the season was kind of inevitable. He’s clearly looking to max out the term (a risky proposition with a 31-year old) and increase his current $6.8 million salary by a significant margin. This has (understandably) made more than a few Rangers fans uncomfortable. The question that is ultimately begged by this situation is: while Hank has been elite for the past nine seasons, will he continue to be elite for the next eight? Additionally, is his pedestrian start to the season indicative of an already-in-progress decline?
The case for still elite:
Any case for Hank continuing his status as an elite NHL goaltender starts with his track record. He has been the most consistently excellent goaltender in the NHL since Lockout II. This means little for trying to predict the future, but thus far, Hank has yet to disappoint. Read more »
I know you just had the musings yesterday, but I have a bunch of thoughts I want to share that aren’t worth a full post. Deal with it. Here’s some thoughts following the Rangers 3-2 win in Dallas last night…
- Is there really anywhere to start but with Hank? The King was absolutely out of his mind last night. Watching the game, there were several times I found myself gasping at his awesomeness. Dare I say he out Tuukka’d Tuukka’s performance from the other night. Hank’s positioning was spot on, he tracked the puck exceedingly well, and he hung with very tough second and third chances. He was an absolute wall.
- Man, it’s nice to have Rick Nash back. I absolutely love watching the guy play. His size, speed, and fluidity are all sorely missed when he’s out of the lineup. He has this way of just mesmerizing opposing D-men as he nonchalantly glides into the zone. I can totally understand why sometimes his teammates just stand around and watch him. Read more »
Frank Franklin II/AP
Since Dave was at the game last night and the rest of the crew was otherwise engaged, apologies for the lack of goal breakdown. However, to fill that void, I figured I’d share some thoughts following last night’s game.
I can’t help but notice how much more organized the Rangers look in all three zones over the past couple games. AV’s system requires constantly changing coverage assignments and a more fluid positional structure. I can see why after four years of the relatively straight forward Torts’ zone coverage why this was an adjustment. Seems like they are finally getting it with some consistency.
The goal scoring woes are an odd situation. Kevin did a great job of breaking down the shooting percentage situation, and if you didn’t get a chance to read that piece, make sure do you ASAP. Long story short, though, is that the Rangers’ shooting percentage is unsustainably low and will regress back to the mean and the scoring will come. Last night’s game was something of a prime example of this. Ryan Miller made some tremendous saves on pucks that would normally find the back of the net. That game should have easily been 5-0. Read more »
Update (3:30pm): Jason Missiaen has been returned to the AHL.
Original Post: Per Andrew Gross, Henrik Lundqvist has indicated that he is ready to go for tomorrow’s home opener against Montreal. Hank had missed the previous two games with a “minor” injury. Cam Talbot was very good in replacing Hank between the pipes, putting up a 1.94 GAA and a .934 SV% in two games.
It is expected that Jason Missiaen will be returned to Hartford shortly. No official word has been disclosed.
Per Steve Zipay, Henrik Lundqvist will not play tomorrow in Philadelphia. Hank missed yesterday’s practice with what was deemed a “minor” issue, but apparently it is enough to keep him out of tomorrow’s game.
Cam Talbot will make his NHL debut tomorrow.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
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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