With the New York Rangers stumbling out of the gate and suffering several embarrassing defeats in rapid-fire succession, there’s been plenty of talk about what’s wrong with the team. Surely, there’s more than enough blame to go around, but at the end of the day, the Blueshirts are lost unless The King retakes his crown, and Henrik Lundqvist regains his form.
The Rangers have been struggling to adjust to the system of new head coach Alain Vigneault. The defense has been sloppy, out of position, and altogether porous, leaving Lundqivst on an island all to his own.
The team has scored just six goals in four games, and one of those happened to be amongst the all-time freaky goals in NHL history in their 3-1 win over Los Angeles. That means that the notorious problems of the John Tortorella era are still present, without the strengths of the team’s strong defense or goaltending. Meanwhile, prospect Chris Kreider has been relegated to the AHL yet again, not able to earn his stripes even without his tormentor, Tortorella, behind the bench.
New York is now midway through an absurd 9-game road trip to start to the season. Several key players such as captain Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin and now Rick Nash have been banged up already. With a return to home ice at the end of October, a return to full health, and continued adjustments to Vigneault’s system, the Rangers can expect improved performance and output.
But until then, one man is still quite capable of turning things around.
Lundqvist has surrendered 15 goals in 4 games, and was pulled in the midst of the ugly 9-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks. Through October 12, Lundqvist has posted a 4.31 GAA with a .879 save percentage. It’s a tiny sample size, but the numbers are alarming.
Since his first full season in 2005-06, the Rangers have depended on Lundqvist more than any other team in the NHL depends on any other single player. New York needs him at his best more than the Pittsburgh Penguins need Sydney Crosby or the Washington Capitals need Alexander Ovechkin.
He has been steadfastly up to the task, too, winning a Vezina Trophy and being in contention for several others, while carrying the low-scoring club on his shoulders. His career numbers include a 2.27 GAA and .920 save percentage, with 277 wins, including at least 30 or more in every non-shortened season.
Here in 2013, though, he’s been lit up, and while it’s far from falling entirely on him, he’s the difference maker, and he’s the only player capable of single-handedly picking the Rangers up and improving their fortunes.
Lundqvist needs Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh to play their usually stout defense. He needs Derrick Brassard, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan to put up points.
But the Rangers, regardless of how fair or not it is to the King, need Lundqvist to pick up the dead weight in the meantime, and get back to his typical all-world ways. Otherwise, they could be staring up at a 1-8 record by the time they get their first chance to get on the ice in Madison Square Garden.
*This article was first published on Yahoo Sports on October 12, 2013.