Henrik Lundqvist is undeniably one of the most consistent and talented goaltenders in hockey, but the New York Rangers have yet to translate elite goaltending and a strong defensive system into a Stanley Cup championship. Could part of the reason the Rangers have faded down the stretch every season since 2005 be that Henrik Lundqvist is burnt out by the time the playoffs finally start?
The Rangers struggled throughout the postseason last year. Despite home ice advantage against the 7th and 8th seeds, the Rangers ground their way through two seven-game series to start the playoffs before closing out exhausting Game Sevens at Madison Square Garden. New York limped into a streaking New Jersey Devils team, before falling in six games in the Eastern Conference Final. Overtime and physicality took its toll.
Fatigue certainly appeared to be a problem for the entire New York roster last season, but in a lockout-shortened year with more than one extra game per week, goaltenders could feel the brunt of the exhausting pace. The shot blocking system that the Rangers utilize to suffocate opposing offenses may have worn down the best team in the conference last year, but this season the health and energy levels of Henrik Lundqvist could be key.
Lundqvist posted the best regular season numbers of his career last season, and it is no coincidence that he also played in only 62 games. However, counting the 20 games in the playoffs before he and the Rangers fell to the Devils, Lundqvist played in 82 games last season when New York’s season finally ended. In the five years prior, Lundqvist averaged 70 appearances in the regular season with little-to-no playoff success. Rest could be key to a deep playoff run for New York.
In a condensed season with less rest between starts, the New York Rangers have to at least consider resting Henrik Lundqvist more in order to prepare for a deep playoff run – that is, of course, assuming they can continue their su
rge up the Eastern Conference standings.