New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist Struggling to Carry Burden

Henrik Lundqvist is a franchise player for the Rangers and historically has been extremely reliable in net. However, his numbers have been lower than usual this season.

In the 31 games Henrik Lundqvist has started this season, the 34-year-old has 19 wins, 12 losses and one overtime loss. Regardless of the outcome, the Rangers have given up 3 or more goals in 15 out of the 31 games Lundqvist has started.

He has just one shutout on the year, has a 2.89 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. Compare this to other NHL seasons where his save percentage has hovered at the .920 mark.

While it is unfair to completely blame goals against on a goaltender, something is off with Lundqvist through the first 46 games. There is no question that the Rangers mediocre defensive play – which has been talked about all season – contributes to goals against as well.

Between Lundqvist and the defense, the Rangers desperately need their coach to start making moves to aid the issues they are facing on their end.


Out of Lundqvist’s Control: The Rangers playing games in their own zone

On top of the issues with players on defense, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has not budged on changing any tactics.

One example of this is that the Rangers are consistently playing games in their own zone. Since Vigneault took over as the head coach, this has been a theme for the Rangers.

Looking back to the 2013-14 season when the Rangers made their run for The Cup, they had a 53.31% Corsi for, which was sixth in the NHL. The following season, their Corsi percentage dropped to 49.49 as they dropped 19th. Last year, they had a 48.1% Corsi for, which was 20th in the league. In this half of the 2016-17 season, the Rangers sit at 21st in the league (49.12%).

After the Rangers’ loss to Buffalo on December 2, Larry Brooks questioned Vigneault about this issue, but it seems he has still chosen make any steps towards solving the problem this creates.

The Rangers are good at generating offensive opportunity off of rushes out of the defensive end of the ice. While this can be successful in many circumstances, it also means that they either need to score or battle to get the puck back in the offensive zone.

There are circumstances in which the Rangers play with consistency in their opponents’ zone, and when they do this they can generate scoring opportunities. They can move the puck very quickly and effectively up the ice once they get it, but they thrive when they pressure in their own zone and are aggressive on the forecheck.

They have the speed to get back if they make a mistake, so I think they need to get a little more aggressive on both ends of the ice, the transitions don’t need much work.

However, it seems that the Rangers always rely on their speed coming out of the zone first, rather than trying to settle and be aggressive on the offensive end.

When there is sustained pressure in the defensive zone, no matter the strength of a teams’ defense, means that more pucks will be put on net. This ultimately means that more dangerous chances need to be stopped by the goaltender.


What to Worry About: Lundqvist Playing out of Position

While there are things beyond Lundqvist’s control, there are certainly some personal game issues that have contributed to Lundqvist’s uncharacteristic play this season.

Hank just doesn’t look like himself in net.

Usually cool and calm under pressure, Lundqvist seems constantly seems frantic. He overplays or underplays shots, never fully getting set; he coughs up big rebounds; and lets in unobstructed shots.

The fact of the matter is that Lundqvist has been positionally unsound all season, and because he does not have a strong defense in front of him, it is noticeable.

Final Thoughts

The good news is that this issue is one that has been addressed by the Rangers coaching staff during the season. Last month, Vigneault benched Lundqvist for four games in favor of Antti Raanta, who has had a solid season in net.

The bad news is, there is no way to tell what is causing Lundqvist’s uncharacteristic play. It could be any number of things stemming from simply his mental state of mind to an undisclosed injury.

Worst case scenario, this could be the start of his decline. There is statistical evidence that suggests that goaltenders in their mid-to-late thirties start to see a drop in performance. Contradictorily, there are many goalies that play well into their 40s and can still perform just as well as younger players.

Alongside Rangers’ goaltender coach Benoit Allaire, Lundqvist has one of the best shots to bounce back in the second half of this season – all it will take is focus and time.

Anyone who has watched Lundqvist play hockey knows that there is no one who is harder on themself than Henrik Lundqvist. Because of this, his uncertainty will be fixed with focus and time.

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