During last night’s game between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes in North Carolina, when the score was tied 1-1, Hurricanes’ Jeff Skinner drew a penalty shot. Now in years past, Rangers’ fans would not even bat an eye, as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist throughout his career has been one of the best in the shootout, meaning he is normally great at stopping a shooter in a one-on-one battle. This year, however, that has not been the case at all.
In shootouts this season, Lundqvist has been average at best and on penalty shots, Lundqvist was 0-3 on the season leading up to the Skinner penalty shot. Well, afterward Lundqvist dropped to 0-4 on the season and the Rangers went down 2-1 in the game with less than 10 minutes left in the third period. Fortunately for Lundqvist, the Rangers were able to bail him out and score three unanswered goals late in the third period leading to a 4-2 Rangers win; but that is besides the point, because this is all about Lundqvist.
When analyzing Lundqvist’s game this season, he is having the worst season of his career with a .914 save percentage and a 2.55 goals against average. Those stats may be fine for other goaltenders, but for one of the best netminders in the league over the past decade, that is just unacceptable.
Not only is Lundqvist’s save percentage lower and his goals against average higher, but like I mentioned before, the once best goaltender on penalty shots and shootouts is a shell of his former self. But there is a simple fix for this and I hope that the Rangers’ coaches and Lundqvist himself have realized why he is struggling so mightily on penalty shots and shootouts this season.
If you notice, every shooter now seems to just skate in and fire a wrist shot high-glove side and score on Lundqvist. No longer are shooters deking and trying to put the puck around Lundqvist’s pads. Shooters have figured out Lundqvist’s major weakness and it is not that he has a bad glove hand, because he has made some fantastic glove saves over the years. What Lundqvist’s weakness is can be seen in how he positions himself during penalty shots and shootouts. Lundqvist is very deep in his net and the deeper you are in the crease, the more susceptible you are to quick wrist shots.
Rangers’ coaches and Lundqvist have to realize this problem right away. Lundqvist is going to have to keep shooters on their toes by being out on top of his crease to cut down on angles every now and then, because right now, every shooter has figured Lundqvist out and it seems as if literally any player in the NHL can score on him one-on-one.