“He’s dropped off a little bit for me,” an NHL scout told ESPN’s Craig Custance. “I hate to say it, but I think he’s on the backside of things now.”
There are likely a few reasons for the number of growing doubters:
1) Lundqvist is now 34 years old, an age when most athletes have begun a steep decline.
2) Lundqvist posted a pedestrian 2.48 GAA last season, the highest of his career.
3) The Blueshirts flamed out in the postseason and Lundqvist looked decidedly average on national television against the Penguins.
4) To borrow from The Dark Knight, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Lundqvist has been so good, for so long that he’s old news and the hockey world long ago began searching for the next best thing.
The title of Greatest Goalie Alive currently belongs to Carey Price. But the 2016-2017 campaign may offer Lundqvist’s best chance at a signature season that solidifies his place in NHL history.
Of course, to go down as one of the greats in many fans’ eyes, Lundqvist needs to lead the Rangers to a Stanley Cup. But even without capturing the ultimate prize Lundqvist may still have a unique opportunity to help his case for legend status.
In building this year’s roster, GM Jeff Gorton apparently decided to experiment with a novel strategy: “Score a ton of goals and let the goalie figure out the rest.”
For possibly any keeper in the league other than Price, that plan would be met with disastrous results. Lundqvist has been under that kind of pressure routinely in his career, but with his rare talent it might garner even more attention this season if the Blueshirts make a run.
The rest of the hockey world outside the Big Apple bubble is now painfully aware of how inept the Rangers defense is thanks to the rise of #fancystats and particularly scathing indictments by analysts like TSN’s Travis Yost that have opened eyes to Lundqvist’s continuously heroic solo efforts in net.
Lundqvist is not off to a great start statistically, but Saturday’s Herculean effort against Washington was solid evidence of his ongoing ability to withstand an onslaught from the NHL’s most potent firepower and still emerge victorious.
Can he keep that up for five more months, plus a playoff run? If so, this could go down as one of The King’s crowing achievements and change public perception in his favor once again as Lundqvist enters the twilight of his incredible career."Could this become Henrik Lundqvist's signature season?",