Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lundqvist No Longer Able to Carry This Defense

Since breaking into the NHL in 2005, Henrik Lundqvist has guided the Rangers to 55 postseason victories including two Eastern Conference Finals and a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Pretty good considering some of the defensive personnel he's played behind including: Marek Malik, Sandis Ozolinsh, Jason Strudwick, Thomas Pock, Bryce Lampman, David Liffiton, Ivan Baranka, Christian Backman, Wade Redden, Dmitri Kalinin, Derek Morris, Corey Potter, Erik Reitz, Matt Gilroy, Anders Eriksson, Bobby Sanguinetti, Ilkka Heikkinen, Bryan McCabe, Stu Bickel, Jeff Woywitka, Tim Erixon, Brendan Bell, Roman Hamrlik, Connor Allen, Justin Falk, Michael Kostka and Chris Summers.

Not exactly a Murderers' Row of defensemen.

Unless you've seen Lundqvist perform on a nightly basis, you can't truly appreciate what he's done for this franchise. Despite not winning a Cup, this last decade has been the "Golden Era" of New York Rangers hockey.

It's not inconceivable to consider that the Rangers likely don't qualify for the playoffs, let alone win over 50 postseason games, without Hank during that time span.

When all is said and done, Lundqvist will own every Rangers goaltending record, be enshrined into the Hall of Fame and have his jersey number hanging from the rafters of MSG, but even those accomplishments can't due justice to how vital he's been to the success of the organization.

Now that Lundqvist is on the back nine of his career there's been a few kinks in the armor recently. And unfortunately for him, he's become the victim of his own success. He's been so dominant during his career even a slight dip in his game is amplified.

To say this year hasn't been a typical Lundqvist season, is the understatement of the century. His 2.72 GAA and .907 SV% are well below his career numbers of 2.30 GAA and .920 SV%.

This past weekend, Lundqvist hit a low point combining to stop just 40-of-49 shots against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. And now the questioning has begun.

Has father time finally caught up with the All World goaltender? Should the Rangers explore a trade? Does Raanta give the team a better chance of winning?

Most will blame old age for exposing Lundqvist, however, what it's really done is pull back the curtain on the Rangers mediocre defense.

For the past 11 seasons, Lundqvist has carried sub par defenses to heights unimaginable. Similar to Mike Piazza willing one of the worst outfields in baseball history into the 2000 World Series, Lundqvist has done the same with the Rangers back end throughout his career.

Year after year, the Swedish native has turned defensive groups of lemons into lemonade. Hell, I bet if you got Girardi and Staal drunk enough they'd both admit their multi-million dollars contracts are solely due to Lundqvist.

Sadly, now that the Frolunda product has proven to be less than superhuman this season, he is no longer able to cover up for the blunders of a defensive core that looks increasingly old, tired and worn down. Which ironically can be traced back to the postseason battles Lundqvist provided for them.

In a moment of clarity, here's Girardi describing the mindset of Rangers defensemen with Lundqvist in goal (H/T reader Anonymous)...

In case you missed what Dan said:

"You don't have to be your best every night when he's back there."

Well guess what folks, that mentality needs to end and it needs to end immediately.

Watching the difference in Rangers defensive play in front of Lundqvist compared to Raanta is night and day. Where they're sure and composed in front of Raanta, they're equality loose and erratic with Hank between the pipes.

After years of being bailed out by Lundqvist, you can understand why the defense has gotten a little too fat and happy in front of him.

Which is exactly the reason the Blueshirts need a paradigm shift. No longer can they expect Lundqvist to sustain a porous defense. No longer can they presume Hank will be there to pick up the pieces. And no longer can they assume "The King" will wave his magic goal stick and make all right with the world.

While I don't think we'll ever see a circa 2012 Lundqvist, I do believe he can still bring the Rangers a Stanley Cup if they're able to sure up the defense to a competent level in front of him.

Lundqvist has always been there for the Rangers and their pedestrian defense, it's officially time for them to return the favor.

Remember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at nyrfan94@yahoo.com.


  1. Spot on Kevin. And if they can give Hank some needed solid games defensively methinks he will regain his mojo and return to form.

  2. Just some food for thought... The Ranger D plays better in front of Raanta and Talbot before him. Both are adept puck handlers that help ease the transition from D to O. Hank is a trainwreck handling the puck. Some correlation there?

    1. I think there is for sure. But it's not 100% the reason. I think defense feels they can play looser and take more chances in front of Lundqvist. Can't do that anymore.

    2. If you had good puck-moving defensemen you'd be able to mitigate Lundqvist's inability with the puck.

    3. Stealing from some one on reddit, this isnt the case it might seem like they play better but they dont realistically. I can agree that lundqvist doesn't handle the puck as well but the team plays similar in front of both goalies.

      Hank 142 6549 57.84 30.13 2.62 13.12 9.4 7.53
      Not Hank 81 3424 56.39 29.65 2.66 12.35 9.60 7.69
      GP = games played
      TOI = 5v5 time on ice
      CA60 = Corsi against per 60 mins (basically ~ all shot attempts on a per game basis)
      SA60 = Shots against per 60 mins (basically ~ all shot on goal on a per game basis)
      xGA60 = Expected goals against per 60 mins (basically ~ a shot quality-weighted metric to estimate per game workload)
      LDSA60 = Low-danger shots against per 60 mins (basically ~ perimeter shots on goal per game)
      MDSA60 = Medium-danger shots against per 60 mins (basically ~ high slot shots on goal per game)
      HDSA60 = High-danger shots against per 60 mins (basically ~ low slot, rush, and rebound shots on goal per game)
      The data was pulled from Corsica and it covers all 5v5 regular season minutes from 2014-17.
      The numbers are incredibly similar across the board. I suspect that all of stats sit within a region where all differences are statistical insignificant. And to be honest, even if there statistically was a significant difference, it would still be a largely meaningless difference in the real world.
      Our backups don't get a better defense in front of them. They demonstrably get the same defense.

  3. I frankly have more of a problem with MCD. I am sort of sick and tired of hearing the excuse he is handcuffed playing with Girardi. He has been on a decline for quite some time. Also, what about AV's man on man d-zone coverage? Its garbage esp when you have slow footed guys on the back end. And when is AV going to stop putting MCD on the PP? Its a joke

    1. McD has had a down year no matter who he plays with. The guy has been thru the wringer in his career and he looks worn down. Definitely wouldn't mind seeing more Clendening or Skjei on the power play.

  4. I agree with the majority of today's blog, though I'm not sure if MDZ's absence on your list of defensive stalwarts was intentional or not.

    With regard to Hank, time is certainly ADDING to the issue, it's inconceivable that any athlete can perform at the same level year in and year out as they age, especially in a position which requires lightening reflexes and superhuman flexibility (unless you're Ben Bishop and standing still you eclipse 95% of the goal mouth). Now we have to acknowledge that his mind numbing $8.5M cap hit this year and the next three years will make retooling the lack luster defense even more difficult. A point made more evident when you get the play that you do/have out of Talbot/Raanta the last three years for a comparable pittance.

    Like Mike said above, and has been mentioned countless times by others, playing McD on every PP/PK and top ice time regardless, isn't helping him or the team.

    1. Ha, yes, I purposely omitted Del Zotto. He had two good seasons. lol

  5. Is it me or was girardi on the ice for every bad scoring chance and even laying on floor for some ? Also hank needs to bring out the header , haven't seen that this season

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Didn't mean to delete the comment just to edit. I'll try again!
    It is possible that for the first time ever in his illustrious career Hank might have an off, or even poor, year. Let’s think about that for a second. In 11 full seasons he has never been anything other than “elite.” I don’t think there is another goalie in the league who can lay claim to that statistic. If he does have an off year that does not mean he is done or in decline. It means he has an off year. Look at Bobrovsky or Dubnyk this year. Both have had more than 1 season in their careers that were not stellar. Look at Rask or Rinne or Quick or Crawford. Goalies typically have up and down careers. Except for Lundqvist. That is why everyone is so up in arms - we have come to expect that he never falters. Well he might falter this year and be average or a bit below. Doesn’t mean he won’t be stellar come playoff time and it doesn’t mean that he will never be elite again. It just means that for once he is not one of the best in the league. And, oh yeah, I personally believe that he will play extremely well in the second half of this year, win 30+ games, and even come close to career stat lines. But if he doesn’t I expect that he will next year...

    1. That depends on what you quantify as a good year. If your idea of a good year is the best stats for an individual. Or if winning a championship matters. Face it. In Hockey a goalie does not become immortal if he doesn't win a cup. HL's playoff record is basically .500 average. And no rings. As a standout stats goalie , he is one of the better goalies all time. That's where the rub is.

  8. When a goalie has run his course it's time to sit him and play someone else. There are no excuses. It's a professionals game. If you perform you play more. If you are not you sit. It's pretty simple really. Take the emotions out of it. Let's Go Rangers.