Lundqvist and Rangers finally admit he’s struggling

Lundqvist struggles continue (Stobe/Getty)

Lundqvist struggles continue (Stobe/Getty)

The Rangers will be facing the Blackhawks in Chicago tonight, the 2nd game of a back to back. After Antti Raanta was stellar in Winnipeg last night, Henrik Lundqvist was expected in net tonight.

Taking A Step Back

Instead we learned this morning that Raanta, not The King will be in net. After the morning skate, reporters scrambled to get quotes from Henrik. Here are some notable ones:

  •  “You do what’s best for the team. I have a few things to clean up.”
  •  “I’ll take a couple days to work harder in practice.”
  •  “It’s up to me to raise my game.”

Alain Vigneault alluded to it prior to the game in Winnipeg when he said, “like any team we need Grade A goaltending” to win. So finally, after speaking about it since the preseason and being berated on twitter for even mentioning that Lundqvist has been off, both the team and the man himself admitted to it today.

Struggling King

Thus far this season, I’ve written no less than 3 articles about Lundqvist likely to struggle coming out of the gate. Here they are if you’d like to read them:

Lundqvist's 1st 10 games of his career updated (FullTilt NYR)

Lundqvist’s 1st 10 games of his career updated (FullTilt NYR)

Chances are Lundqvist will start slow

Statistically speaking, Lundqvist off to a slow start

Verdict: Did Lundqvist have a slow start

The thought process was that last season’s hot start was the exception and not the norm. In 12 seasons, Lundqvist has come out of the gate with numbers less than his career average 8 times (2.28 GAA, .921 SV%).

After his first 10 games this year, it was clear he was struggling compared to his usual standards (2.50, .914). His current record is 12-8-1, thanks in large part to the hellacious offensive start to the season for the Rangers. However, his 2.55 GAA and .912 SV% season numbers continue to highlight his struggles.

Exluding the odd, mid-relief stint against Vancouver when Raanta was pulled for concussion protocol (Hank surrendered 2 goals in 6:19 of play and took the loss), Lundqvist’s subsequent 10 games are no real improvement. In his last 10, his GAA is 2.60 while his SV% marginally improved to .915.

If you didn’t believe me then, you can believe me now…Henrik is struggling.

Will He Improve?

Henrik has stated that his “focus” has been a problem this year. He clarified that by saying it isn’t a reflex issue, it’s reading and attacking the play. When he is off on his reads, he is off on his positioning and that was obvious in the loss against the Islanders this week.

I also don’t corner the market on noting Hank’s slow starts. Ryan Lambert over at Puck Daddy noted the same. He writes, Four of the past five seasons, his first month has been putrid by any standard, let alone his own extremely high one. Supporting the age theory is that his season starts were typically at least a little above average, and often well above it, prior to the 2012-13 lockout. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence, then, that the 2013 season was also the one in which he turned 30.”

Lambert also did a further statistical study that coincides with the Rangers defense and the high number of dangerous shots they give up early in the season. The bottom line is even if Hank starts slow he usually rebounds big time.

Hank's starts vs rest of year (via Puck Daddy)

Hank’s starts vs rest of year (via Puck Daddy)

The question now remains, when will that rebound begin?

 

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore