Lundqvist Finding His A Game for The Blueshirts
By Patrick Hoffman
Over the last two seasons on Broadway, New York Rangers star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's play has been up and down to put it mildly.
Last season was actually one of Henrik's worst seasons in his career, all spent with the Blueshirts. While his wins total (31) was decent, his goals against average (2.74) and save percentage (.910) were well below what he usually posts in a season.
When looking back at the last two seasons as a whole, there were some nights where he'd look like the goaltender he has been for almost his entire career. Other nights, he'd look like a shell of himself and would appear to play like he was old and tired.
Fast forward to today (January 2, 2018) and the man they call the "King" appears to have returned to his throne. As of this writing (January 2, 2018), Henrik is 18-9-4 with a 2.56 goals against average, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts.
For a 35-year-old masked man, those numbers are darn impressive. What's even more impressive is that the defense in front of him has been terrible this season.
It seems like every night Lundqvist starts, he is facing a barrage of shots. Just take a look at the number of shots he has faced in his last five games:
January 1, 2018: 33 shots against (32 saves)
December 29, 2017: 35 shots against (33 saves)
December 23, 2017: 37 shots against (34 saves)
December 21, 2017: 48 shots against (45 saves)
December 19, 2017: 40 shots against (39 saves)
If this were last season, Lundqvist may have struggled mightily in these games. Last season, he seemed slower and looked like his age was finally catching up to him.
This season, however, has been a different story. After struggling out of the gate, Henrik has looked quicker between the pipes, has challenged shooters at the right time, and has made a ton of timely saves to help his team win games on a more consistent basis.
Without Henrik's strong play between the pipes this season, the Rangers' season would look extremely ugly. As of this writing, the team is third in the Metropolitan Division with 47 points (21-13-5) and sits just four points behind the Washington Capitals, who currently occupy the top spot in the division.
Thanks to the play of Lundqvist, the Rangers are in a good position as they head towards the second half of the season. The rest of the schedule will not exactly be easy for this team, but because of Lundqvist, the team has put themselves in a solid enough spot to continue to contend in both the division and for a spot in the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
There is still another half of the season to play, but if Lundqvist continues to play like this and the team in front of him figures out a way to round into form, this could be a very tough team to beat come April, May, and may be even June.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.