This is not a call to bench Henrik Lundqvist for the rest of the season, nor is this a call to trade him. He is the New York Rangers‘ most important player of the last decade and is still the face of the franchise.
But right now facts are facts. His backup, Cam Talbot, is playing better hockey. Most importantly, the Rangers are winning games when he starts. Therefore, until further notice, Talbot should be the Rangers’ starting goaltender.
That being said, Talbot should not be the starter for the rest of the season. As well as he has played, going 9-2 in his first 11 NHL starts, who knows how long he can keep his great play up? There are no guarantees he is the new Ken Dryden. If the Rangers ride him for the remainder of the season and he fails them in a big spot in the playoffs or late in the regular season, not only will it be a disappointment, but how will it make Lundqvist feel? He was just given a brand-new seven-year contract extension to be the Rangers’ backbone for the next decade, so an unhappy Lundqvist could cause a very unhealthy situation within the organization.
The right thing for the Rangers to do is to continue to start Talbot until Lundqvist gets his confidence back. Coach Alain Vigneault sat Lundqvist down for the Rangers’ past two games for what he deemed a “mental break.” Perhaps Lundqvist needs more than two games off to regain his swagger.
Cam Talbot is the goaltender that will lead the Rangers to victory at the present time, but Henrik Lundqvist is a goaltender that has proved he is capable of leading the Rangers to glory. Is Talbot capable of assuming Lundqvist’s role? Absolutely.
But this is not the time for assumptions. This is the time to simply ride the hot hand until Talbot proves he is incapable of being the No. 1 goalie for a longer time period. 11 games is a miniscule sample size compared to a decade of excellence.