Hockey season is just around the corner, when the 93rd season in New York Rangers history will begin. It is time to look at one of the best goaltenders in the Rangers’ rich and storied history, Henrik Lundqvist.
The last two seasons have been a rough stretch for King Henrik. The worst part is that he isn’t getting any younger, and time is suddenly running out. With an upgraded roster in front of him, which includes an improved defensive core, this season will determine if Lundqvist still has what it takes to be a starting goaltender.
The spotlight has been on Lundqvist for the entirety of his career, but none brighter than right now. He will have to be what he has always been for the franchise, and that is dependable.
Losing His Throne?
Lundqvist is nearing the end of his iconic career. After next season, his seven-year, $59.5 million contract will expire. We don’t know if he will sign another contract with the Rangers, or maybe another team, or if he will retire as one of the most outstanding goaltenders to ever play the game.
Over the past two seasons, “King Henrik” has begun to lose his throne. In back-to-back seasons, he failed to win 30 or more games and held losing records. Much of the disappointment can be blamed on the defense in front of him, but there were many occasions when Lundqvist was at fault.
Behind Lundqvist, there are two goaltenders waiting to take over as the next franchise goaltender. Alexandr Georgiev, who held his own as the backup last season, has the best chance of being the starting goaltender of the future. But, Igor Shesterkin should not be ignored. The winner of this backup battle will likely be the next starting goaltender after Lundqvist.
There is a chance that these past two seasons were a fluke, and that Lundqvist has a chance to rebound to his former self. He is still “The King” and that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winner can still lead the Rangers, as young and inexperienced as they are, back to the playoffs. Overall, a playoff birth is really the only thing that matters.
The 2018-19 season was not a good one for the Rangers’ all-time winningest goalie. With a record of 18-23-10 and the highest goals-against average of his career at 3.07, he struggled last season. It was the first time in his 14-year career that he registered over 3.00 GAA in a season. With Lundqvist having a disappointing season, the Rangers failed to make any headway toward the playoffs and finished with the second-worst record in the Metropolitan Division.
The 36-year-old netminder had a lackluster season between the pipes. He failed to record at least one shutout for the first time in his career, astonishing considering there is no player ahead of him in Rangers history in that category. Additionally, he allowed more than four goals in 18 appearances last season, which is tied for the most in his career. He set that mark in 2017-18, in another terrible performance.
Much of the problem with letting in those many goals per game, is that he isn’t getting any support on the offensive end. The Rangers are on a downward spiral in terms of goals forced against the opponent. Since 2016-17, they have plummeted from having the fourth-most goals in the NHL, with 253, to the 26th most goals with 221. That hasn’t helped Lundqvist.
Going into the 2019-20 season, Lundqvist will continue to see the growing pains in front of him. But, with a better overall roster, it should be a better season for him. The past two years should be a distant memory with the performance of this season.
Overall Grade: C-minus
It was a season to forget for Lundqvist, as well as the rest of the New York Rangers. His overall grade for last season is a C-minus.
This grade comes off of his unbelievably disappointing season, and how he was unable to be a reliable goalie. He failed to reach the expectations set for him, and now his credibility as a starting goalie is hanging in the balance. It was so lackluster, that he is entering the 2019-20 season as a sleeper, or a player that is flying under-the-radar. There hasn’t been a time like this in Lundqvist’s career.
With two backups duking it out for his spot, the pressure is on Lundqvist to be a dependable goaltender once again. If his performance is lacking, while the rest of the team is successful, a crucial decision will have to be made.
With all of the wrong that happened over the past two seasons, this is a completely different team. There is a sense of hope, and the expectations for this upcoming season are the highest it’s been since the Rangers failed to win the Stanley Cup in 2014. As he has during his entire career, Lundqvist has lived up to and exceeded everything that has been expected of him.
Going into the 2019-20 campaign, Lundqvist’s durability and stability is among the many questions surrounding this team. We have all seen just how good he can be in the biggest of stages, but now we have seen the other side of the success.