It looks like Alain Vigneault did a pretty good job managing Henrik Lundqvist this year

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).

The King held up remarkably well under those strenuous demands, but Vigneault recognized that Lundqvist was set for yet another obscene amount of action heading into a grueling Olympic year. Sure enough, Lundqvist played another six games in Sochi, so Vigneault was wise to give Biron and Talbot a combined 20 starts and 1,282 minutes during the regular season, more than former coach John Tortorella was willing to risk on mere mortals in goal until his final full season in New York.

Lundqvist still played a ton this year, but the 4,590 NHL minutes he’s logged to this point actually isn’t a ton given how deep the Rangers are into the playoffs. Lundqvist has shown that he can easily handle an abnormal amount of time in the crease, but Vigneault clearly made an effort to find an ideal balance that would keep The King fresh.

Obviously we can’t know for sure whether that extra rest is even a little reason for Lundqvist’s playoff heroics. But there’s no denying that The King is at the absolute peak of his powers at the perfect time, and one has to wonder if his stunning success is partially due to his lighter schedule during the regular season. After all, the league did the Rangers no favors by compressing seven games into nine days include back-to-back Game Six and Seven bridging the first and second rounds, but instead of wilting under the physical rigors of the postseason, Lundqvist has gone 5-0 with a .964 SV% and a 1.20 GAA over his last five enormous starts.

Everyone knows Lundqvist would prefer to play every minute of every game, but there’s a pretty compelling case to be made that Vigneault’s handling of his biggest star is a huge reason the Rangers are six games away from the biggest prize in the sport.

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  • As he gets older, having a capable backup in net is going to be a big area for the Rangers. Hank is efficient in net, so it reduces wear and tear, but those minutes add up fast.

  • Love the shot of Hank here. Is it me or is that Advil commercial the best commercial on TV right now?!

    Hank has a goals.

    Goal 1 – Win a game in the Stanley Cup
    Goal 2 – Win the Stanley Cup
    Goal 3 – Goals 1 & 2 don’t matter if we don’t play as a team, as one.

    The fact that Hank has been out of this world year in and year out is a testament to his patience. Time and time again he has stolen games for us. More importantly he has done so in the post season, prolonging empty cup aspirations. I thank him for that.

    This time around, we have depth, speed, skill (presenting itself now), a coach that has been getting the most out of his players, a team that plays for Marty and his mother, for each other and most importantly for Hank.

    We’ve been on the other side this season in Pitt. All was lost. It appeared as if the Stanley Cup wasn’t the only motivation they needed. They rallied around Marty. They seem cohesive now. They’ve strung some HUGE wins together and now the all-mighty trap scenario unveils itself. Fortunately for us, this team also plays for Hank.

    I think these guys don’t just want to win the cup. I think they want to win it for Hank. Fill his trophy closet with the elusive NHL SC.

    The story could not have been written early on, but the way it is playing out it is quite a joy to watch. I am riding high now as I am sure a lot of New Yorkers are. Having Hank in net makes that dream a realistic outcome.

    Thanks Hank. Thanks Rangers. Lets continue to push!

  • He is white hot right now. I can’t remember ever seeing him in better form. Is that me getting caught up in what has turned out to be a promising playoff run, or is he playing the best hockey of his career?

    If you look at the #s game, his playoff save percentage has basically been unchanged over the past 3 years @ .934. This would indicate that this yr is no different than previous ones…but again, he ‘seems’ more dialed in, to me.

    Last year we saw his GAA spike, but this year it is back under 2 at a 1.93, but still not as good as the 1.82 he put up in 2011-12.

    Stats can be found here:

    So what is it, has he only returned to his elite form….or he raised the bar with his play once again?

    • I think it’s a combo of Hank’s excellent play and the D playing better than I can ever remember around the net.

      It’s amazing, all they do is play the man on rebounds and the forwards do a great job of dropping in and checking sticks to prevent rebound shots.

  • Let us not forget the very capable and successful back-up provided. I wonder what AV and the fan base’s patients would have been if Talbot was more like Biron in his back-up role? Smart coaching, excellent support and not to much patients needed to stay on track.

  • Kudos to AV and to Sather.

    Think about the changes they made this year.

    Put Pyatt on waivers and stuck it out with Pouliott.

    Traded Del Zotto for Klein.

    Retired Biron for Talbott.

    Brought a faster pace game plan compared to last year.

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