Although he has been criticized –especially early in the season– and he is without a shutout (yet), could Henrik Lundqvist quietly have moved into the Vezina candidates once again, this season?
With Craig Anderson and his other worldly numbers surely out of contention because a lack of games (16 games is surely not enough to warrant consideration), Lundqvist has a few key differences to most of his Vezina competition this year. For the most part he’s suffered from a lack of goal support, while he has also had to battle to keep his team in the playoff mix.
Of goaltenders that have started 25 games or more, only Tuukka Rask has a better GAA than The King, while Lundqvist boasts the league’s best save percentage (again, discounting Anderson’s 16 game assault on the statistics). Then there’s the good old fashioned win column. The King has 17 wins which given his lack of goal support (The Rangers sit 26th overall in goal scored) is impressive, and places Lundqvist 6th overall. With guys such as Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price playing on clubs having more successful seasons than the Rangers, it’s hard not to respect the numbers the Rangers goalie has quietly assembled. However, how much will the lack of shutouts hurt his case for Vezina nomination?
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“Shortening goalie pads is more important to me than this “concussion” nonsense”.
Every once in a while, something happens in the hockey world that compels me to get up on my soapbox and rant about it. The last time this happened, it was the heated debate over the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller hit. That one helped get me a gig writing for BSB, so unfortunately for all of you, it has emboldened me to stand up on that box once again…
Goalies are getting in the way. Their entire existence is devoted to removing the most exciting play in hockey: the goal. Everyone wants more scoring; the league, the fans, the analysts. Casual fans get into 7-6 barn burners way more easily than 1-0, tightly checked, defense-first games. Ever since Lockout II in ‘04-‘05, the league has looked for ways to improve goal scoring to broaden hockey’s appeal.
They have toyed with wider, bowed-out nets, they have limited the goalie’s ability to play the puck, and implemented a wide range of physical limitations on the size of the equipment goalies wear. Most famously, limiting the width of leg pads from 12” to 11” (which, was a good thing). Not to mention the breathtakingly long list of proposed improvements that the NHL has not allowed for, and incremental disallowance of many commonly used protective features, which could, in theory*, give the goalie an undeserved advantage.
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Image Credit: Bauer.com
Since the Rangers have been kind of bumming me out recently (last night’s domination notwithstanding), I thought I’d take a look at a relatively recent development in goalie equipment and how it has revolutionized the industry. In the skate department, that innovator generally tends to be Bauer. On both the player and goalie side there have significant landmark products that change the landscape of how skates are constructed, utilized and improved.
Starting back with the original Vapor line, Bauer sought to reduce weight, while increasing stiffness and quality of the materials used in skate construction. In 2003, Bauer had its biggest breakthrough in skate technology, the Vapor XX. This skate was the lightest skate ever built at the time, and absolutely took the hockey world by storm. I was working at a pro-shop at the time, and remembered thinking they had lightened them up to the point they felt like a running shoe. It was insane.
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Good goalie, a little suspect in shootouts
Coming into the lockout shortened year, a consensus emerged that due to the abbreviated schedule, Marty Biron was going to play a major role for the Blueshirts this season. Back at the beginning of January, The Suit did a great job highlighting this need. Our sartorially inclined colleague opined that Biron should get at least 12 games this season in order to keep Hank fresh and keep his overall workload reasonable.
So far, this hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Due to the slow start the Rangers had to the season, our resident Marty has only appeared in three games so far (once in relief and starts against TB and the Isles, last night). This puts him on pace to start well under ten games during the regular season. Obviously not an ideal workload share for a potential long playoff run.
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The Rangers are blessed with the King but shouldn’t assume he’s around forever.
The Rangers are in an enviable situation with Henrik Lundqvist manning their net at an age where he can continue playing at a high level for a long time behind what should be a contender for several seasons. The immediate future in net is bright, but those who think the club should sit back and rest on their laurels should be warned.
The Rangers need to begin seriously thinking about drafting a goalie for the future. Of course, their fingers may be a little burnt and their draft trigger finger a little hesitant given the disappointing outcomes from drafting Al Montoya, Antoine LaFleur, and Scott Stajcer, but the Rangers need to keep an eye on the future. This is made more apparent as current back up Marty Biron (no matter how talented) isn’t exactly a rookie himself either.
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Can the King keep his streak alive?
In my humble opinion, despite the absence of a Stanley Cup, Henrik Lundqvist is already the greatest goaltender ever to wear Ranger red white and blue. Likely to reach four hundred career wins with ease (health allowing), a legitimate chance at a Stanley Cup, and numerous additional Vezina’s, there won’t be much the superstar Swede won’t have achieved when all is said and done. His career is already proceeding at an unprecedented pace as a Ranger goaltender.
Right now, Lundqvist owns a pretty impressive NHL record. He is the first goaltender to win at least thirty games in seven seasons in a row to begin his NHL career. He’s been extending his own record for a season or two already. Here’s the food for thought: can he continue that impressive streak this year? Do you get a pass (aka an asterix next to your record) because of the shortened season?
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(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Every time the Rangers flash Henrik Lundqvist’s stats on the TV during a game, especially the stat that shows that he’s won 30 games in each season so far, it makes me wonder how long it will be until Lundqvist holds the Rangers record for goaltender wins. Currently, Hank has 252 wins, good for third place all time among Rangers goalies.
Next on the list is Eddie Giacomin, who has 266 wins. Assuming there is a season, Hank should pass Eddie within the first two months of the season. Take a step back and think about that for a second. Hank has played seven full seasons, and has one shortened year ahead of him. When the season gets underway, Hank will pass Giacomin in less than eight full seasons. That’s impressive.
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During the past few years, the trail of thought was that if the Rangers could find a way to get their All World goaltender extra rest, he would be better prepared for the grind of the playoffs. Last season saw the Rangers finally able to give Henrik Lundqvist extra rest (thanks to a healthy and reliable Martin Biron) and promptly the Rangers made the conference finals; their finest season in years.
It is worth considering whether, during the lockout, if Lundqvist would benefit from an extended break or whether he’d be better off padding up and getting back on the ice. Media reports have recently suggested Lundqvist may head back home to the Swedish Elite League. What is best for Lundqvist however is influenced by the potential length of the lockout, which right now, is like guessing the length of a piece of string.
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Well, here we are. The final installment of the Pre-season Top 30 Goalie’s list. It has been a fun ride, and in case you missed it, here are rankings 30-21 and 20-11.
Ladies and gentlemen…The 2012-2013 Pre-season Top 10.
10. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes- Mike Smith is someone who probably wouldn’t have factored into this list as recently as last pre-season. He signed a discounted, short-term deal with the ‘Yotes to replace the departing Ilya Bryzgalov and it couldn’t have worked out better. It seems the combination of Sean Burke and coming into his prime years finally allowed Smith to fulfill his potential. He is starting to use his size and blocking skill to his fullest advantage, and he has cleaned up his positioning considerably. I’d like to see a little bigger sample size before feeling completely comfortable with this ranking, but what I saw this year tells me Smith is capable of perennial Vezina caliber campaigns. Read more »
With numbers 30-21 taken care of, we move on to the middle segment of the Pre-Season Top 30 with numbers 20-11. As always, make sure to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.
20. Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers – This one I know I’m going to get fileted for. I know “Mr. Universe” is everyone’s favorite whipping boy, and we all take a little extra pleasure whenever a Flyer’s netminder struggles. The bottom line however, is Bryzgalov is a solid goaltender. As noted in my scouting report on Bryz last season, it’s his style that creates the perception. While his skill level in no way validates his absurd contract, he is a solid positional netminder who I am confident will have a much better showing next season. Read more »