The New York Rangers embarrassingly blew multiple third period leads in a loss to the Ottawa Senators last night. Henrik Lundqvist surrendered six goals in the affair, causing many to blame him for the loss. He does not deserve the blame.
Henrik Lundqvist deserved so much better. Henrik Lundqvist deserves so much better. As the New York Rangers have struggled their way through the post-season, it’s been Lundqvist that’s kept them afloat and winning hockey games.
However hockey fans have short memory spans and that’s been made abundantly clear in the current series against the Ottawa Senators.
In Game One, Lundqvist allowed an odd-angle shot to sneak over his shoulder to give the Senators a 2-1 lead. Ottawa would never relinquish that lead, gifting the Senators a 1-0 lead in the series.
Lundqvist received plenty of the blame for the loss, as the thought process was that if Lundqvist didn’t allow the weak goal, then the Rangers absolutely would have ended up winning the game. There’s multiple issues with that assessment.
First of all, it was Lundqvist’s extraordinary play that allowed the Rangers to even be tied 1-1 at that point in the game. Lundqvist made countless ridiculous stops along the way to keep the score even. Secondly, the Rangers played an awful game. They looked lackadaisical, they let Ottawa control the tempo, and they barely managed any scoring chances on Craig Anderson.
So no, we cannot assume the Rangers would have won if Lundqvist did not allow that goal. Ottawa was the team pushing for another goal, so if it wasn’t that one, odds are they would have received a break another time.
Game Two saw Henrik Lundqvist let six pucks slip past him in a 6-5 double-overtime loss. Giving up six goals is never acceptable, so we are not trying to say Lundqvist played an outstanding game or anything.
However, the blame must not fall on Lundqvist’s shoulders. It was not Henrik Lundqvist who decided Pavel Buchnevich should play under six minutes of hockey in a double-overtime game. It was not Henrik Lundqvist who decided the Rangers’ best defensive pairing-Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith-should have been benched for the final five minutes of regulation.
Henrik Lundqvist did not have one of his usual stellar nights to put the Rangers in position to succeed, but the coaching staff put the team in position to fail. So they failed. So Henrik Lundqvist failed.
Now the Rangers are down 2-0 in the series, and everyone needs a scapegoat. Apparently going after the coaching staff that made every possible decision to put the team in position to fail doesn’t work. Instead, the choice is to go after the goalie that nearly on his own brought the Rangers to the second round.
The goalie that puts the team on his back on an annual basis, then receives a majority of the blame for when the team can’t jump over the final humps. Henrik Lundqvist always receives the blame, but when the team succeeds it’s a team effort.
It’s a good thing Lundqvist looks like Lundqvist looks and makes more than $8 Million, because otherwise we’d feel quite bad for him. Find a different scapegoat than the guy who has the team on his back. Maybe that’s why he couldn’t stop a few of the goals, anyway.