You can point to many reasons why the New York Rangers have emerged as a playoff contender. They are scoring timely goals, playing more physical hockey, and are a smarter club as a whole.
The main reason, however, that the Rangers have emerged is simple, and it just may be the reason they emerge into a Stanley Cup contender — Henrik Lundqvist has found his game.
As Lundqvist struggled to an awful first half of the NHL season by his standards, questions persisted about his troubles — Is he distracted by his contract? Is he preserving his body for the Olympics? Did Alain Vigneault‘s system expose him as a fraud?
Not only has Lundqvist’s recent play answered these questions, but he looks better than he has in a long time. And for once, the Rangers and their fans can believe their team has a chance to do something special this season.
No, Lundqvist has not been perfect. He still tends to let in the soft goal and still has some positioning issues to sort out. However, these goals are not coming at the wrong time in a game and are not affecting the rest of his team mentally. Lundqvist carried the Rangers to a victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on the road, and made 37 saves in the Rangers’ most dominant victory of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers.
As is the case the last decade, as Lundqvist goes, so do the Rangers. And right now, both are playing some darn good hockey.
If this is the Lundqvist that is going to show up the rest of the season, then not only can any notion of a goaltending controversy with Cam Talbot be put to rest permanently, but the words New York Rangers and Stanley Cup will not sound so awkward in the same sentence.