In order for the Rangers to make a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, one of the most important factors was going to be the play of Henrik Lundqvist.
The New York Rangers played well through the first round against the Montreal Canadiens.
New York Rangers
Things seemed to be meshing for the team on offense, the defense was able to quell many of their problems seen in the regular season, and Lundqvist stood strong as ever in net opposite Carey Price.
It looked like if they continued to play up at that same caliber, they would have no problem in the second round.
However, Ottawa gave them trouble.
There are many factors that impact the outcome of a team’s Stanley Cup run. Here is how much blame can be placed on Lundqvist and what things are out of his control.
Lundqvist’s Playoff Performance
In the 2017 postseason, Lundqvist allowed 25 goals and made 366 saves for a .927 save percentage through 12 games. His shutout performance in the Rangers win over Montreal in the first round was his 10th playoff shutout.
Throughout his career, Lundqvist has been vital to the Rangers’ success in the postseason. Historically, it has seemed that no matter how the regular season goes, Hank will turn it on in the postseason and step up in important moments for the Rangers.
Here are a few of Hank’s best moments against Ottawa:
After a turnover in the defensive zone and a nice deke by Mark Stone, Lundqvist poke checks and comes back across the crease to deny Erik Karlsson.
Here, Lundqvist robs Ryan coming in alone after Staal turnover on the blueline.
After a shot on net by Stone, Lundqvist reads this play comes across and out of the crease to make a huge save on Turris.
Lundqvist was constantly making stops like this throughout both series. In addition, the need for Henrik to make saves like these also represent situations that could have been prevented with better play in front of him.
Beyond His Control
The lack of consistency in production and turnovers in all three in all three zones as well as defensive hiccups led to chances in the Rangers own zone. Because of this, Lundqvist became been a victim of too much pressure falling on his shoulders in the second round.
From game-to-game, the Rangers looked like different a different team. After going down 2-0, the Rangers won the next two two games looking strong as ever. However, the Rangers could not manage to carry this over into the final two games of their series, leading to their elimination.
Turnovers were made on the blueline, in transition and in front of Lundqvist. Though there were scenarios where the Rangers goaltender was able to bail his teammates out, there were other times they did not get so lucky.
No matter how tall a goaltender stands, if the team in front of him can’t give him some aid there’s no shot at a run.
Additionally, not all the blame can fall on the Rangers. Ottawa was resilient in this series against the Rangers. They were able to knock the Rangers off of their game bigger hockey in in the games that matter most.
Where the Blame Should Fall
Pucks that end up in the net are never 100 percent on the goaltender. There is so much that happens coming into the zone, blame could fall a handful of factors every time.
In looking at shots against compared to goals against in the first and second round, Lundqvist let in more goals on less shots against Ottawa.
Against Montreal, Henrik faced 206 shots and let in 11 goals for a save percentage of .949. However, when it came to playing Ottawa, of the 189 shots against, he allowed 18 goals for a save percentage of .902.
There were scenarios where Lundqvist needed to come up with saves in the most important moments and did not. I would argue the game-tying and game-goal in Ottawa’s Game Two comeback win, Kyle Turris’s overtime winner in Game Five, and both the first and second goals in Game Six could have been handled by Lundqvist.
Lundqvist coming up with saves in these moments would have made a big impact. It could have changed the momentum when the Rangers needed it most.
It is hard to place the blame on any one entity. The Rangers didn’t play as well against Ottawa in the second round — period.
While the Rangers had good moments, the inconsistency in play doomed them. An inability to hold on to pucks (and leads) in games, the Rangers relied on their goaltender to bail them out against Ottawa than in the first round.
Lundqvist played a near-perfect series. Because of these factors in front of him, a shot at the Conference Finals meant he needed to be perfect.