Henrik Lundqvist returned to the form that saw him win the 2012 Vezina Trophy on Saturday night, saving 48 shots as the visiting New York Rangers clobbered the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. The win helps the Rangers keep pace with the New York Islanders for the seventh-seed in the Eastern Conference at 42 points.
“That is the best I have seen (Lundqvist) play since I’ve been here. … He stole one for us,” Rangers Coach John Tortorella said after the game, via the New York Rangers’ official Twitter account.
It’s not that Lundqvist has played poorly at all this year, ranking fifth in save percentage, fifth in goals against average and third in saves. But the Rangers need to return closer to last season’s defensive form if they are to repeat as Eastern Conference champs. The Rangers finished third in goals against average and fifth in penalty-kill percentage in 2012. However, in the latter category, they have fallen to the middle of the pack this season.
Dealing Marian Gaborik and bringing in recent additions of Ryan Clowe, Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore could pay dividends in New York’s urge to reclaim that defensive toughness. However, If these moves pan out in the postseason, then the increasingly dominant play of Lundqvist could still keep New York in low-scoring games. The veteran netminder has gone 10 straight contests without allowing more than two goals after it happened 10 times earlier this season.
Few things could have come as timely for Coach Tortorella’s job security than Lundqvist catching hot now.