This was kind of a strange year for Ranger goaltending. We saw Martin Biron retire after only seven games, Henrik Lundqvist really struggle for the first time in his career and the relatively untested Cam Talbot come up and dominate. Let’s try and sort it out and get some grades…
Cam Talbot– Talbot came up after the previously mentioned retirement of Martin Biron and allowed the world to see that he belongs in The Show. In 21 games and 19 starts, Talbot put up a 12-6-1 line with a 1.64 GAA and a .941 save percentage. No matter how you slice it, this was a phenomenal year from a backup that could easily be viewed as a best case scenario.
The Suit outlined how the Rangers played a slightly more conservative system when Talbot was in net than they did with Hank, but his work was undeniably solid. The work of resident goalie guru, Beniot Allaire was evident from the get-go, reducing a lot of the movement noise in Talbot’s game and moving him a little closer to the goal line. The result was a more calm, confident tender who looks to make the jump to starter (somewhere other than New York, obviously), probably after this season. A+
Henrik Lundqvist– For the first time in his career, Henrik Lundqvist genuinely struggled to start this season. There were reports that his contract situation was hanging over his head, that AV’s new system was exposing him through the lack of shot blocking and other assorted explanations. Hank did later admit the contract situation was a distraction, but my theory is just that his defense was terrible in the first month or so as they got used to the system, and, sometimes, goalies just hit a rough patch. Consistency is hard, and Hank has been doing it better than anyone else for the past decade.
That said, Lundqvist really turned it on in the second half, arriving at his 8th thirty win season in nine years (would have been 9/9, but he had only 24 wins in a lockout shorted season) and a solid 33-24-5 line with a 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage. His GAA was a little inflated, but his save percentage was right in line with his career norms.
Additionally, he put his team on his back through much of the playoffs, dispelling any notion of not being a true playoff performer. There was a stretch where the media tried to stir up a goalie controversy when Talbot had an extended run amidst Hank’s struggles, but Lundqvist was always the guy. His brutal opening stretch dings him on his final grade, but another solid campaign for the Vezina winning backbone of this organization. B+