Sticking with our Henrik Lundqvist theme for today, there was a great discussion on Twitter between Japers Rink and Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post regarding the myth of the playoff goat or playoff underachiever. Fairly or not, Lundqvist (and Alex Ovechkin) have been labeled as playoff losers because both are elite players who have never advanced past the second round. In Lundqvist’s case, this is especially unfair as this is really just the second season he’s really had a team capable of making it past the second round.
Save for the 2006-2007 Rangers that were very capable of making a run (stupid Chris Drury!), Lundqvist has always been the reason why the Rangers made the playoffs. He made a mediocre team a playoff team, and in 2009 carried them to within one win of a major upset of these Washington Capitals. But, the team around him wasn’t a playoff caliber team, and they lost.
Now, this is a Ranger team that is a playoff caliber team. Add Lundqvist to the mix, and he makes them into a team that can make a legitimate run. They are eerily similar to last year’s Boston Bruins, and constructed in the same way as well. But yet in an attempt to sell papers and page views, many ignore the strength (or lack thereof) of these teams, and focus solely on the fact that Lundqvist hasn’t made it past the second round. Color me confused.
The main discussion now is that if the Rangers lose, Lundqvist may be given a permanent “playoff loser” image until he finally wins a Cup. It’s not exactly fair, but that’s how the media runs the show nowadays. Very little thought process, just headlines and irrational scapegoating.
But it does beg the question: Is there pressure on Hank to win? The answer is simple. There is always pressure on Lundqvist to win. He’s the rock in net, he’s the best goalie in the world. Very few of the Capital’s chances have beat him cleanly, and he’s only flubbed one real chance (Game Four – Alex Ovechkin).
It’s unfortunate that people will continue to scapegoat the goaltender if the Rangers lose, especially if he gets beat glove side again. But the fact of the matter here is that the Rangers wouldn’t be here without Lundqvist. This is the first time in five years that he’s had a legitimate contender to work with. The rational fan disregards what he has done without much support because he didn’t have much support.
Now that this team is nearing completion, Lundqvist can be better judged for his playoff performance. Just look at his numbers, this year is different. He’s not a goat, nor should he ever be. But, that said, there is significant pressure on him to not just produce solid numbers. He needs to win.