Henrik Lundqvist has looked less and less like himself over these last few seasons. Overall, the New York Rangers were disappointing as a whole, but that could very well change with the 2019-20 season.
“King Henrik” was among the many of Rangers players to have a lackluster season in 2018-19, posting a record of 18-23-10 and a save percentage of .907. Additionally, for the first time in his career, Lundqvist finished the season with a GAA of over 3.00 (3.07).
But, he is still a leader. If a ‘C’ was traditionally worn on a goalie’s chest, it would have been given to Lundqvist over a decade ago. He has spent the past 14 seasons – and will spend the next two or more – as the Rangers’ starting goaltender.
So what exactly went wrong with Lundqvist? What can he do to bounce back? What does the outlook of the future look like?
Let us take a look.
What Went Wrong for Lundqvist?
Well, the Rangers are in the midst of a rebuilding phase. There are a lot of spaces that are filled with young, inexperienced and unproven players. There were growing pains in all areas of the ice over the past few seasons and the Rangers just couldn’t make up for the difference.
Lundqvist wasn’t his usual self this past season, and it carried over from 2017-18. He allowed four or more pucks in the back of the net 18 times in each of the last two seasons. Those are both the most in his career for one season. This is coupled with the fact that offensively, the Rangers were 23rd in goals for last season with 221 goals, and 21st in goals with 228 in 2017-18. On average, the Rangers put in 2.70 and 2.78 goals per game in the last two seasons, respectively.
For Lundqvist, aside from his own lack of ability, he was being peppered with shots night-in and night-out. Co-existing with the number of goals given up per game, he also had to make an average of 32.7 and 32.3 saves per game over the past two seasons. Putting those numbers into perspective, his career average over for the 12 seasons before 2017-18, was 28.3 saves per game.
Frustration mounted easily and often for Lundqvist, especially in the second half, and who could blame him? Although this team has been growing with the abundance of youth being on display each game, the team continued to struggle. The forwards weren’t able to generate enough scoring and the defensive lines could not keep the puck away from their goaltender.
How Can He Turn It Around?
The best thing about “The King” is that, even through all of the disappointment of the last couple of seasons, he can lead the Rangers back to the top. Even now, as he is nearing the end of his storied career, he has the ability to still be a solid and dependable goaltender.
One of the main problems for Lundqvist as of late, is inconsistency with the defensive core in front of him. A revolving door of defense that has seemingly got much worse as this three-year playoff drought has progressed. The Rangers allowed the third-most shots in the NHL with 2774 last season. But, with the addition of Jacob Trouba, as well as an influx of younger guys like Libor Hajek and Adam Fox, it could be better for Lundqvist.
But, it all depends on Henrik. This team benefits or hinders on his performance and he can be the only one to turn it around. This season will truly show whether or not he can still be a starting goaltender, and if he can’t, it will show rather quickly.
The King’s Future
Time is running out for Lundqvist. He isn’t getting any younger, no matter how well he plays, and the expiration of his contract is approaching. His deal expires at the end of the 2020-21 NHL season, and it is a mystery if the then 38-year-old will continue for another year or two with the Rangers. If he chooses to retire at the end of that season or move onto another team, which is highly unlikely, the Rangers seem to be in pretty good hands.
This season will put that future to the test, as Alexandr Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin will battle it out for the back-up goaltending job. Georgiev, who was Lundqvist’s back-up last season, has been great in the role thus far. Shesterkin, who is starting to gain a title as the second-coming of Lundqvist, will come over to the NHL from the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. Both have a chance to get a good bulk of the games over the next two seasons and may even be named the next franchise goaltender.
There is a lot hanging in the balance at the moment and a lot of questions left to be answered. One of them being, will Lundqvist bounce back from a disappointing last two seasons? He certainly can, but only time will tell.
For now, Rangers fans have to revel in the fact that his clock is ticking, and what comes after him is a mystery.