We now commence Blue Line Station’s review of each of the Rangers from the 2010-2011 season. We’ll review what we anticipated from each player coming into the season and how they actually performed, and assign them a letter grade. Grades reflect how each player performed compared to expectations.
This was certainly an interesting season for Henrik Lundqvist. Now with more than capable backup Martin Biron on the roster, it was the first time since his rookie season in 2005-2006 that he wasn’t relied on for almost every game in the first half of the season. He still ended up with the usual 70+ starts, but only because of a freak collarbone injury for Marty Biron. Still, the rest he got early in the season was worth it. Hopefully Biron can stay healthy next season so we can see the complete benefits of having a quality backup goaltender. But now’s not the time to discuss next season. We are reviewing how Henrik did this season, after all. Continue reading to see my review of how King Henrik performed:
What We Expected
More of the same, really. In his five NHL seasons before this year, he’s been nothing but superb for the Rangers. Even in his worst year statistically, the 2008-2009 season, Lundqvist was selected for the All-Star Game. Lundqvist has been perhaps the most consistent goaltender in the NHL since the lockout, so there really wasn’t much of a question as to how he would perform this year. It really was just a question of whether he would be very good or great. Though abysmal teams are partially to blame, his numbers the the previous two seasons were not up to par with what he put up in his first three. So a slight bounce-back and return to a GAA below 2.30 was perhaps the main thing Rangers fans would hope to see differently. Almost his whole career, Lundqvist has been plagued by a winter slump, most of the time coming in December. Finally, we also would have liked to see him carry that elite play over to the playoffs. Though it’s a small sample size, and gain, his teams weren’t too great, his playoff stats were pretty average. That’s not a true reflection of how he played, but still. Other than that, though,What else can you say? There are the Marc-Andre Fleury’s and Miika Kiprusoff’s of the NHL, where you never know what kind of season they’re going to have, and then there’s a goalie like Lundqvist, who is always a lock to put in a top-7 performance.
How He Did
About as well as we could have realistically expected from him. Lundqvist posted a 2.28 GAA , which is only defeated by the 2.23 he put up in 2007-2008, and he posted a .923 save percentage with 11 shutouts, setting career highs. The 11 shutouts specifically were pretty monumental, as they led the league. What is especially great is that he never slumped mightily in December, or any month at all for that matter, since his save percentage never dropped below .910 in a single month. That kind of consistency was vital for John Tortorella, who really had to spend the first few months of the season figuring out who should and shouldn’t be in the lineup. Through all the injuries in the first half of the season, the Rangers never struggled, and Lundqvist was reason number one. Credit also must be given to him for not flinching when Biron went down for good. Lundqvist enjoyed getting as many starts as he did I’m sure, but physically that can be pretty difficult for goaltenders to handle. Not only did he handle it, but he had perhaps his best month of the season im March. The Rangers needed every single game to get into the playoffs, and Lundqvist did his job to make sure there was no repeat of the 2009-2010 season. Lundqvist continued to be the anchor of the team in the playoffs and, at times single handedly, kept the team in every single game. The 2.25 GAA and .917 save percentage are incredible numbers, given how skilled Washington’s offense is, and how many odd man rushes and breakaways the Rangers allowed. Lundqvist does have the tendency to give up the occasional soft goal, but every single one the Capitals put into the net was no fault of Lundqvist. He played as great of a series as the Rangers could have possibly hoped for, and if he can match that play in the future, when the Rangers are a more complete team, we will have multiple chances to go deep in the playoffs.
Final Grade- A
The only thing preventing Henrik from receiving an A+ is the lack of a Vezina nomination. Should he have been? Perhaps. But it’s hard to give him a perfect score when a couple of goaltenders outperformed him. That’s nothing to be ashamed of by any means, though. Tim Thomas had an absolutely ridiculous year that undermines almost any single season that any goalie has had in the last 10 years, and Luongo and Rinne, while both clearly very good goaltenders, were beneficiaries of playing for great teams with great defenses. Lundqvist was without a doubt a top-5 goalie in the NHL with a solid but far from great team in front of him, and that’s what we needed. He might not put up the best stats in the league in a given year, but I’ll take consistent top-5 performances over his whole career.
Lundqvist is locked up through 2014 so there aren’t any concerns about his future with the team. Assuming Biron stays healthy next season, Lundqvist will only be asked to start 60-65 games. Tortorella might ride Biron for a few games if at any point Lundqvist is struggling, but there’s no question who the starting goaltender is in New York both next season and for the foreseeable future.