Is there a goalie controversy in New York?


In case you missed it, and if you’re reading this you didn’t, Antti Raanta has been the starting goalie for the past three games. He’s won all three games, with the last two via shutout. Alain Vigneault seems content with riding the hot hand, which means Henrik Lundqvist –who has “struggled” this season– is riding pine.

There is a very vocal minority that thinks the Rangers should be starting Raanta going forward, even if/when Hank regains his Hank-like form. It is unlikely that happens, as Lundqvist will likely return to his starting role soon, but it’s still a possibility that Raanta continues to play well and get more starts.

All of this leads to whether or not there is a goalie controversy in New York. But to answer the question, perhaps we should do some actual digging into how the Rangers play with each goalie in net.

First and foremost, the Rangers do play a slightly different style in net when it’s Lundqvist or Raanta. It’s not a major system change, as they still play their hybrid overload/man coverage. The difference is subtle, and occurs in front of the net. When it’s Raanta in net, the Rangers have the defender in front playing behind the forward. When it’s Lundqvist, the defender plays in front of the forward. Subtle, but has an impact. Suit covered this two years ago when Cam Talbot was still here, and the Rangers still do this today.

To recap quickly: What the Rangers do with Lundqvist is called “fronting.” What they do with Raanta is called “net side positioning.” When fronting, it gives the defender a better angle to get in front of shots, shooting lanes, and passing lanes. However the weakness is that when shots get through, they are not in a position to take the body and clear rebounds. The opposite is true for net side positioning.

Which brings me to the types of shots each goalie faces. Tom Urtz Jr. did the leg work on this, so I’m going to leverage his tweets here:

For the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on the high danger (HD) shots first, before getting to the overall shot totals. These numbers are over the last three starts each for Lundqvist and Raanta. Raanta has faced less than half of the high danger shots that Hank has faced. Given the above, it makes sense. With the Rangers fronting and blocking fewer shots, more are getting through and forcing Hank to make multiple saves from in close.

In terms of overall shots faced, that is a significant drop off from Hank to Raanta. The defense appears to be tightening up over the last three games, although I’m willing to say that’s more coincidence than playing differently. Fronting will impact high danger shots, not overall shot totals.

This isn’t to say that Lundqvist is struggling because fronting isn’t working. This isn’t to say that Raanta is succeeding because the defense tightened up. It’s both. The defense is tightening up a lot, and it appears that perhaps fronting may not be working anymore. We won’t know until Lundqvist is back in net.


So the Rangers have won three straight with Raanta in net. But the Rangers have also played significantly better with Raanta in net. Until the Rangers start playing this strong with Lundqvist in net, we can’t properly evaluate if this is the beginning of the end for the King. More likely than not, Hank will rebound when the team starts executing better in front of him. But style of play has a role in execution. There are potentially many factors playing into the goalie situation right now, but Hank has history on his side. He rebounds to his usual self. He will this year too.

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    • Human nature, if you know that you have a safety net then you are more complacent. It’s like when a good football defense knows that the back up QB is playing, the D tightens up even more to keep the points low.

      Regardless of what the main stream media likes to say the Rangers have played differently in front of Raanta/Talbot than Lundqvist. And it’s not even close if you watch carefully. The game charts show it too.

      • This from Larry Brooks:

        “Analytically speaking, the Rangers have limited opponents to 30 five-on-five attempts in two of their last three games after having permitted that few in just three of their first 27 matches. By the way? The Blueshirts are 6-6-1 when out-attempting the opposition (five-on-five), 14-3 when they are out-attempted. What does that mean? You got me.”

        So what that means is what I said above, that the Rangers have played differently with Raanta in nets vs. Henrik, the stats above prove it.

        It also means that, with Henrik getting the bulk of the starts when the Rangers are out attempted, the Rangers are still winning. so…

        And what is the definition of soft goals? Is it a soft goal when the puck hits Chimera and Skjei before going into the net? The fact is while Raanta has made some great saves, his line of vision for facing shots has been clear, and that is where the Rangers are much better than when Henrik plays.

        • That’s very misleading from Brooks. They are 14-3 when being out attempted because they build up huge leads and sit on them. Not uncommon.

          • It is uncommon, but regardless of that, the rangers are also being outshot heavily in the first periods too.

            Corsi is a useful metric, but we need to stop treating it like a God..

          • It’s not about treating Corsi like a god, it’s about using Corsi properly. Score Effects are real and important, and looking at Corsi without the context of Score Effects is misleading.

          • Not a God Dave, but a useful tool for long-term results. I’m not an expert on it at all but I am in the middle using eye test and charts to come to conclusions.

        • Soft goal is like that one time a few years against LA, like third game into the season, McDonagh, off a faceoff, cleared the puck from the defensive zone, down on the other end of the ice, it hit Quick and it trickled in for a goal.

      • I agree with you Richter. But I’ll even go further with the thought and say, it’s on the coaching staff to prevent “human nature” for overriding professional’s play. Truly great teams, and I mean from management to the players, play professionally ALL the time.

        • yes, that is basically all coach’s role, to give their teams the best chances to succeed, both in player deployment and in the systems that they use for play.

          motivation doesn’t hurt either. I agree my friend.

      • it seems to me this is by design. Almost like they are coached to defend this way.

        It is literally a correction of positioning yourself differently by like 4 feet.

        If it produces such different results I think this could be easily fixed.

        • at least they’re playing a zone now as opposed to that horrible man to man last year that this D is not capable of playing. so that was a major adjustment from last year to this year, probably Buek had something to say on this.

    • Obviously the Rangers play the way the defensive coach wants them to play when a back-up is in net, whereas they play the way Hank wants them to when Hank is in net. That’s the only explanation that makes sense. It is likely the case that Hank is simply not comfortable with the alternative defense.

      However, it seems clear that his position on this subject is hurting the Rangers at least as much as his talent is helping them.

      • you could be right about that, obviously Henrik has some say, but then you see the frustration he has on the ice and it makes you wonder.

  • Raanta deserves to start tonight and save Hank for Thursday in Dallas it was nice seeing you last night at toys for tots have a good day

  • Nice info on “fronting” vs. “Net Side” Dave!

    Listen, the guy has 2 goose eggs in a row! What sort of message would AV be giving the club if he doesn’t let him attempt to push it to 3?

    Just looking at the group, they have team chemistry! Plus AV’s comment saying he loves the team…

    Raanta starts no doubt! or I eat a bug!




    ( I wonder what Henrik is thinking during that chant? )

  • No controversy here. History repeats itself. Happened in van and is happening here. Goalie drama.

    Hank has already said he likes to have the forward fronted. He needs a clear line of sight and his head is always moving to get that angle on the puck. He also doesn’t drop as fast as Antii so he needs not to have his demand ass in his face.

    Problem is he is dropping his glove hand again and playing too far out.

    • Yeah, that sums it up with Hank. This has happened in the past. Usually, a week of Hank working with Benny clears up those bad habits. Hank is the best, but he’s not a robot, even the great ones fall back into some bad habits from time to time.

  • There is no mention to the fact that Raanta catches more pucks and handles the puck way better than Hank just like when Talbot was in net. Hank needs to catch more pucks and play the puck better to help the d exit the zone.

    • Slow your roll, the guy is a HOF goalie and now your going to change his methods! and ask him to play more like his backups… HA

      Chill…. he can go through a little slump…
      Pass that Dutchie!

    • He can’t catch the puck … His hand is a mess from catching wrong in his younger days , he lacrosse cradles or stabs at it … Can’t close the glove cause it’s so heavily palmed it won’t shut

  • There is no controversy. A few things:

    while we have seen career backups go on runs they usually regress back to average fairly quicky.

    Also we have gotten at least 3 breaks to go our way with goals that let’s face it hank never gets.

    Even if hank plays and loses tonight … the Hawks are significantly better than the Devils plus they could have teows back. Odds of shutting then out back 2 back is slim.

    I think we’ve gotten exactly what we’ve needed out of raanta. Time to go back to hank.

  • Great write up, but there’s no controversy. Raanta is hot and the coach is riding the hot hand. Also, Hank needs to play a little less during the season as he gets older. He may not think it, but it’s prudent. Having him sit for a spell in December is no harm no foul. And the good news is our back up goalie has been played great and will be ready in case we need him for any reason in the play offs.

    • I would have given you a thumbs up if the option wasn’t removed.

      Another advantage of Raanta playing well is that it gives the Rangers another potential asset to trade at the deadline.

        • They took it out because they felt we were not mature enough to understand its purpose. We as a group did not like the things they wanted us to like is how they put it as I recall.

          • I enjoy the commentary on this blog in no issue for me if I can’t like or dislike…it’s good to see what folks are thinking…and then draw my own conclusions…

          • Incidentally, I don’t believe that is true. In some threads, I have made comments that were strongly opposed by most people here and have gotten thumbs up for a “reasonable” comment in the very same thread.

          • I thought it was because people were automatically voting thumbs down based on the name of the poster, not the content.

  • The worst part of this “controversy” is that we are going to lose Raanta in the expansion draft. Surely he will be the cheapest and best goalie available. Then we will have no more drama.

      • Agreed with Al.

        Las Vegas will take one of our forwards (Grabner, Pirri, Lindberg) and they will have a proven starter as their goalie (Flower, Howard, Bishop, etc)

  • There are more than 30 capable starting goalies in the world. There are only 30 job openings. Thus, you have starter caliber personnel who only get back up allotted crease time. And when they get in the blue paint, don’t be surprised if it shows.

    2013-14 12W 6L 1T .941sv% 1.64GAA
    2014-15 21W

    • ^ugh, premature post.

      There are more than 30 capable starting goalies in the world. There are only 30 job openings. Thus, you have starter caliber personnel who only get back up allotted crease time. And when they get in the blue paint, don’t be surprised if it shows.

      Cam Talbot
      2013-14 12W 6L .941sv% 1.64GAA
      2014-15 21W 9L .926sv% 2.21GAA
      2015-16 21W 27L .917sv% 2.55GAA
      2016-17 14W 9L .916sv% 2.55GAA

      ^Starter material. However note his year over year declining stats. AKA sample size correction. Obviously we all (mostly) knew that his 2013-14 stats were not indicative of his future probable stat lines.

      Andrew Hammond
      2014-15 20W 1L .941sv% 1.79GAA
      2015-16 7W 11L .914sv% 2.65GAA
      2016-17 0W 1L .833sv% 4.00GAA


      Just an example that a fanbase should never marry themselves to a guy who strings together a nice run during a season. You never know who that guy might turn into. 3 games in December means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Awesome for Raanta and I hope he gets the start again tonight. Eventually, Lundqvist will take his net back over. I think the soonest we’ll have a “real conversation” about Lundy being supplanted will be during the 2018-19 season….. though, I hope it’s later than that.

      • One of the best posts on the subject I’ve seen. Well done Hatrick!

        Although not officially announced yet, Sean Hartnett reports Raanta will start tonight.

      • With Hammond you really have to look at underlying stats because Ottawa is not a good team and hasn’t been.

        • Agreed- with all examples you have to look at the underlying stats. But he put up his absurd numbers in front of the same Ottawa team. Obviously it wasn’t sustainable.

          • And Talbot is proving that as a starter, he’s an average goalie as opposed to the supersub he was in NY. Exactly why you can’t go crazy over small samples with any player.

          • Talbot is playing in front of team that hasn’t been to the POs in 10 seasons and finished last in their division last season.
            Perspective please.

          • Fair, but Talbot was benched for a substantial period of time last season because he was not playing well. This season, with a vastly improved team in front of him, he got off to a hot start before crashing back to earth. He hasn’t proven that he’s anything more than a mid-range NHL starting goaltender.

            As a group here, we tend to overrate our young players and make judgments about players who have a limited body of work by which to judge. Then they hit the open market and what happens? In Talbot’s case, we overrated him so much we were convinced teams would give us a number one pick. Didn’t happen. There actually wasn’t a huge market for him.

            In McIlrath’s case, we killed AV for not playing him more. He’s put on waivers, and no one claims him. Not a single team.

            Clendening is now playing in his 6th organization in two and a half NHL seasons. Teams move on from him quickly, and there’s obviously a reason why. Yet AV is taken to the woodshed because in a small sample of pre-season and regular season games, he had some solid possession numbers and somehow that proves he should play more.

            And the list goes on and on.

            Now obviously, young players can improve and develop. Who’s to say what the future holds for Talbot, McIlrath, Clendening and others? But it is highly improbable that players on the margins like that will become significant contributors, let alone, in Raanta or Talbot’s case, be able to replace a future HOF player like the King.

            So that perspective has to be considered as well.

          • Young team that’s on the up & up and is getting better and better , we could have saved 4 million or so 😉

  • You stay with Raanta until he loses. That makes the choice for the coach easier. Hank is a big boy. He’ll be fine. You’ll see him on the upcoming trip. As long as they’re winning, this is just a contrived story to give us something to ponder, as the cold weather moves in. Come playoffs, we ALL know who will be in goal.

    • I agree with you to a certain extent Joe. I agree that right now, sticking with Raanta is the right call. I think one thing that folks are not considering is that part of AV’s thinking may be the standings. At the moment, the Metro is a beast. The way it’s shaping up, some good teams in the East may not even make the playoffs. So while the Rangers are in good shape at the moment, I think after their slight slump a few weeks ago, they need to keep piling up the points just to stay afloat in what might be the strongest division we’ve seen in recent memory. So if that’s part of the equation, riding the hot hand makes sense.

      Now, that being said, I’m not sure I’d say “keep playing Raanta until he loses”. Hank thrives on work, and as you said, come playoff time, he will be the man and needs to be in peak form. Also, Hank himself said he wants some more practice time with Benny. Next practice, as I understand it, is tomorrow. Seems to me if that goes well, regardless of how Raanta plays tonight, Hank is in there vs Dallas and in one of the two weekend games vs either the Preds or NJ.

      A controversy will develop if Hank doesn’t get a chance to get into a rythym at some point reasonably soon, but for tonight, I’m fine with going with Raanta.

      • To me, it just seems like a non issue. Everytime Hank struggles and the backup has a few wins, this comes up. Again, it always seems that the fans and the media,(whether calculated or not) want the guy who is on the bench in the lineup. Especially if the guy has a few nice performances under his belt. Its Christmastime, the team is doing well, the injuries haven’t done too much damage, so…, oh I don’t know,…. lets talk about a possible goaltender controversy. Same old, same old. There’s plenty of time for Hank to get himself ready for the REAL season. No worries there. This is just a part of a long, long, season. Let Raanta enjoy himself. When hes watching from the bench in April, it will give himself something to feel good about.(;

        • 100% agree. Starting goaltenders and starting QBs all endure the slings and arrows from the fans who all think the backup is a better long term answer. And 99% of the time, they are wrong.

      • There is a difference between Hank liking work and Hank thriving on work.

        Consider: Hank has never strung two great playoff series together. He has not outplayed his backup four years running. Yet he is this spectacular Game 7 goaltender.

        I see a man great when he is focused, but who can’t sustain his focus for that long. I’d like to see his playing time restricted, even in the playoffs. If he only played 1/2 or 2/3 of the Cup games, he could perhaps be brilliant throughout.

      • Wait, Eddie. You actually think posters on this board overreact to small sample sizes of back-up players? That can’t be….

        Regards- orange

  • Didn’t we just go through this a few years ago when Talbot was winning games and there were fans saying play him and sit Hank? I even seen fans saying trade Hank now cause we have Talbot. What really got me was when Talbot was giving up 4 or 5 goals but we would score 6 and win but all they seen was a win. I think they should let Raanta play while he’s hot. Let Hank do what he needs to do with Ben and when Raanta cools off we can all watch Hank come back and do what he does best, stop pucks and win games.

    • 2 Thumbs Up! Raanta is starting, as he should…

      Hey David K, maybe Henrik will watch and learn eh? LOL

      Henrik will be fine, let Anti ride this wave!!!!

    • That’s a correct statement,”a few years ago”
      The concern to some degree is the fact that Hank is in his mid thirties. Some goalies reflexes are still good till around forty, some aren’t. ‘m not saying Hank has slowed down, but it is a possibility and a concern. Time will tell, but until then, Raanta, if playing better, should get the opportunity. The next few starts for Hank may tell the story. It’s sad when such great players get old and begin to decline, especially in such a demanding sport as hockey. I have the feeling though, that Hendrick will come back this year with a vengeance and once again stand on his head. He’s certainly a great guy and a great competitor. We all are rooting for him!

  • There’s no goalie controversy. As of now, Raanta is the starter. It’s that simple. Too early to say anything else. Obviously Hank has’t yet been permanently supplanted, but it’s too early to determine that he’ll reclaim the starting role, too. Until Hank rebounds, it remains unknown whether he will regain form. I don’t fault AV for the change. The team was slipping. AV had to send a message to his team that complacency and poor play aren’t acceptable. Benching Hank was the message, and it’s worked really well thus far.

    • Ranta is not the Starter. He’s a backup who’s playing really well and is on a roll.
      I don’t think it’s too early to determine if he’ll reclaim the starting role. The role is his when he’s ready

      • That’s not the question, though. While on the surface, the situation appears to be a “when” scenario. But in actuality, it’s an “if” scenario. If Hank regains form, then yes, because his talent and performance exceeds Raanta, the starting role will be his. But he has to actually outperform Raanta. He sort of hasn’t done that all year.

        • It is when, not if. I’ll bet you Lundqvist plays more games between now and the end of the year AND after the calendar flips.

  • You can not compare what a goalie does as a Standley Cup contender and with the Edmonton Oilers. People are comparing apples and Edmonton. Its a poke in the eyes to the people that believe that Hank is the greatest goalie since sliced bread. The guy can not handle the puck making the defense struggle more than it needs to. Not that he’s not a good goalie he is but he is also flawed.

  • This is sacrilegious, but maybe we are giving credit to the wrong people. Over the last four years, it hasn’t really mattered who has been in net, be in Hank or Talbot or Raanta. Ever consider the possibility that the Rangers just have really good defensemen.

    • Perish the thought! The Rangers can’t be a contender with this group of defensemen…at least that’s what I keep reading.

      • The point is that they only bleed these chances when Lundqvist is in goal, when they are playing the way Lundqvist wants, and miraculously these chances don’t lead to lots of goals.

        Of course, obviously if the analysts say a shot is high difficulty, who cares that the goalie likes that kind of shot and routinely stops it.

    • Ray, my man, eat some breakfast baby, its obvious you just woke up from a 2 year nap…

      our D corp needs some help baby!!!

  • I just watched the video of Hank having to face the press about not starting again. You can tell by his body language it’s really starting to get to him. Maybe not playing isn’t that bad, but having to answer repeated questions about it is. My concern is that this faux controversy will cause more problems then if he was playing poorly.

    I keep thinking back to the Luango/Schneider situation. AV went with the hot hand and it blew up into something worse. Obviously this is a different situation, but it still concerns me because it is really obvious that Hank ain’t happy. If this goes on very long it may negatively impact his performance down the road. We gotta hope for the best.

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