AV playing the hot hand with Raanta, but Allaire will have Lundqvist ready to go

Raanta's strong showing bests Blackhawks. (Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

Raanta’s strong showing bests Blackhawks. (Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

I wanted to take this forum to address some of the complaints, grievances … really misconceptions that a lot of fans, just like any fanbase of any sport, currently have. Many of which have become chronic if I’m to say so myself.

Hot Topic

I think the topic on most fans minds right now is “How good is Anti Raanta?” “How long do you start him for?” “Is Hank finished?”…. let me answer that simply with one statistic here that matters, 697. That’s how many games Henrik Lundqvist has started for the New York Rangers in the regular season. That’s not counting his playoff starts, his international team starts, or Frolunda.

So why does that number and really only that number prevail? Simple, only 25 people in the history of the world have started that many games… let that sink in for a minute… Because it goes to show, he’s been through this before and more importantly, he’s gotten past challenges greater than this before.

Playing Raanta

So then the question lends “Well look how good Raanta is playing, why not just keep playing the hot hand?” And that question is absolutely correct, except for the fact that what Raanta is doing right now most benefits the team not in the wins category, it’s arguable that the Rangers would’ve won the past 3 games with Lundqvist in net as well, this isn’t baseball in the sense that we can apply a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat to this situation.

There is no telling the outcome of those games and that’s not to take away anything from Raanta’s play, it’s been on point and him being a backup and thrust into 3 games in 4 nights in 3 cities can’t be taken away from him. The fact that Raanta has played this well has allowed Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire and Head Coach Alain Vigneault to have a conversation they most likely had after the Rangers 4-2 loss to the Islanders about “resetting” Lundqvist and that’s precisely what they’re doing now.

The Allaire Factor

I’m sure most of you have read about Benoit Allaire’s brilliance as a Goaltending coach, just look at the career he set Cam Talbot up for and the way Lundqvist has launched a hall of fame career under his guidance. Goaltending coaches are more important to the game of hockey than pitching coaches and batting coaches are to the game of baseball, but where the good from the great are seperated isn’t in keeping a highly skilled athlete fresh, but in rebuilding a goalies mentality.

I know, I know, someone reading this is saying “well Hank is mentally fragile” you couldn’t be more wrong. Goalie’s like Pitchers have “stuff”… if a forward doesn’t have his best “stuff” on any given night, he can make up for it with hustle, checking, skating … a goalie can’t and you know it that first shot in warmups whether you have it or not. Take the Islanders game for example, Lundqvist didn’t have his best stuff that night and you could see in his movements, he just wasn’t comfortable. You can tell that by a few metrics, they’ll play the puck a bit more, overcompensate by coming to the top of the crease to cut down the shooter.


A few points here;

  • Take a look at the Andrew Ladd goal for example, where I can’t recall Lundqvist ever pokechecking a forward driving and pokechecking it into play, that’s a play he’ll either let come to him, control and cover, or play into the corner but his feeling is off, so an aggressive move like that is overcompensation.
  • Also look how far out he comes, which isn’t a bad thing but a regular Lundqvist will come out to match the player as far as depth and then track the play in not attack the play.

That’s evidence of an uncomfy Hank, however even though he didn’t have his stuff, he still pieced together multiple onslaughts in the 2nd and 3rd period to keep his team in it and that’s grit and mental strength. However, like Yogi Berra used to say “baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical” it holds true in Goaltending as well.

You can’t “rebuild” a goalies game midseason without an extended time period. It could take a week, it could take a month and it’s grueling work, (think of a Rocky montage) that starts with reprogramming his mind, hours and hours of film where positives are drilled in, reinforcing his strengths, and building up his confidence.

Ready To Go

What I will say is Raanta will continue to start, not as long as he’s hot, but until Benoit Allaire tells AV “he’s ready to go” I have a feeling that’s close, and the positive is it happened early on in the season and Raanta has played very well to take the pressure off Hank having to return.  

What I do believe is Lundqvist has December 20th versus Pittsburgh circled on his calendar and with 3 games between now and then, I expect him to get into possibly one or two in that build up. If he exercises his Penguin demons, matched with the reset button I believe we’ll have our old Hank back just in time for Christmas.

*As a side note, i’d like to thank FTHN for the forum and the chance to comment on the New York Rangers. Feel free to tweet @ me anytime with topics you’d like addressed.

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