New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

Our New York Rangers report cards continue today. First it was the forwards, and then the defense. Will the goalies feel the heat as well?

By Chris Wengert

For years, New York Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been the foundation upon which success has been built.

But time will crumble just about any structure, and with the Rangers disappointing first round playoff departure still fresh in our minds, we have to start asking ourselves if King Henrik’s empire has began to crumble.

Smarter Move Was To Trade Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta arrived in New York under the cloak of controversy after stating that he hoped that his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, would lose in the Stanley Cup Finals.

But New York fans are a smart bunch and took the high road with the Chicago drama.

However, here we sit at the end of a disappointing season and Raanta has a shiny new two year contract.

Is that truly indicative of a strong season, or just out of necessity?

It’s time for some final grades.

Antti Raanta

The New York Rangers have been fortunate to have some very strong backup goalies over the past five or so years.

Players like Marty Biron (minus the start to the 2013-14 season) and Cam Talbot were large parts of the Rangers success over the past five seasons.

Enter Antti Raanta

Raanta started the year with four strong wins and New York Rangers fans had all but forgotten the name Cam Talbot.
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Raanta’s happy, go-lucky personality was a breath of fresh air during interviews, and he quickly became an easy player to root for.

But every mountain has two sides, and Raanta’s quick rise was followed by an ugly fall.

He then lost nine straight games, and while three of those losses were in situations where Henrik Lundqvist was pulled, his numbers speak for themselves.

Table courtesy of Hockeyreference.com
Table courtesy of Hockeyreference.com

Like most of the Rangers roster, Raanta experienced an abysmal December and January.

While the responsibility of those three loses shouldn’t rest solely on Raanta’s shoulders, his play certainly didn’t help the team.

But something changed on February 12th when the Rangers welcomed the Los Angeles Kings to Madison Square Garden, a game in which Raanta was given the nod.

Simply put, Raanta couldn’t stop a beach ball that evening and the Kings would go on to win 5-4 in overtime.

During the post-game interviews, Raanta looked and sounded about as upset and defeated as any athlete I have ever seen.

He admitted that he had no confidence and that he was just hoping that the puck would hit him during the game.

After seeing this I actually wondered if the Rangers would hit the market to find a replacement for a shaken Raanta.

But Raanta would eventually show some serious perserverance, as he would go on to finish the season about as strong as he started it.

If you look at his whole body of work from the 2015-16 season, you can easily conclude that Raanta should be more than capable of bearing a larger work load next season.

In fact, he will need to.

Grade: B

Henrik Lundqvist

The Rangers wouldn’t have enjoyed a fraction of their recent success without Henrik Lundqvist.

Hank has consistently been the best performing and hardest working player on the ice and the results have spoken for themselves.

While Hank still had a strong season, something was different this year.

The former Vezina winner seemed to become increasingly frustrated with his teammates. He would often yell at his players, shrug his shoulders, and even argue with the referees on a consistent basis.

Oh, and remember this?

He was hurt on the play, but the net flip was completely out of character for Hank.

Lundqvist basically carried the Rangers for the first two months. In fact you could argue that if not for Hank’s play in October and November, the Rangers may not have even made it to the playoffs.

But that still does not excuse Hank’s inconsistent play. While he may been given an unrealistic workload this season, Lundqvist just wasn’t good enough when his team often needed him most.

Hank was pulled a mind-boggling 11 times this season, three of which came during the playoffs.

For a player whose 8.5M salary cap could seriously handcuff the Rangers moving forward, he just has to be better.

For a player who is nicknamed “The King”, he has to be better.

For a player who hears chants of HEN-RIK rain down from the Garden rafters, he just needs to be better.

Grade: C

One New York Rangers Fan Has Some Serious Game

13 COMMENTS

  1. Sigh. How can you possibly give a C to Lundqvist without even looking at his stats? The idea that the goalie’s occasional frustration outweighed his play is mind boggling. He had 35 wins and a .920 SV%, right in line with his consistently high level of play which ranks him as one of the elite goalies of the past decade. Yes his GAA was higher than normal but do you think that that was possibly because he led the league, yes the entire NHL, in shots against, high danger shots against, and saves. Oh and did I mention that he also led the league in even strength SV%? And let’s not forget that he was the team’s MVP for a record 8th time.

    You talk about his being pulled more often this year which is true. But you fail to mention in several of those contests he was “pulled” because there was literally no defense in front of him. He was “pulled” from 2 games after having made more than 40 saves. AV time and again said after games in which Hank went out that he was hung out to dry or it was a shooting gallery for the other team.

    As far as his “frustration” goes, this is hockey. Players yell, shout, curse, and throw things all the time. There is not even a hint anywhere that Hank’s teammates dislike or disrespect him. The net throwing incident was the fault of the ref. There should have been a stoppage for an injured goalie as none other than Braden Holtby said.

    So your C grade, based on nothing but some minor optics, does not pass the straight face test.

    • Well…I’m cool with it.

      Hank finished 22nd in the league with a 2.48 GAA, and 12th with a .920 SV%. How could you get on somebody for grading a goalie with those stats out as a C?

      Aside from the first month, he was extremely ordinary all season long.

      • In the first place he was quite good in November and the Rangers through 20+ games were, with Dallas and Montreal, the best teams in the League. At the same time our D’ was horribly inconsistent, Hank and a small hot streak from Mats literally carried us. To give him a C is to suggest mediocrity and with that I have to take issue. Yes, in the final analysis he didn’t have a good/great season by his standards, but he was better than average given the fact you had a defense weighed down by Dan Boyle, Girardi and Staal for much of the year. Add to that McD being wildly inconsistent and subpar through much of the first half of the season and you had what was overall a pretty mediocre if not bad defense. Now add to all that the fact that the forwards defensively didn’t help much and the PK was abysmal most of the year (slight uptick when Nash came back off of injury) — both totally uncharacteristic for “these” Rangers and you have a recipe for a higher GAA and a skewed save percentage.

        On the whole I would consider my opinion on Hank’s season closer to MMF’s and would rate him at a B (A+ in October, A in November, C in December and the first half of January, after that he did B/B+ work) — and we’ll need an A or A+ from Hank to win a SC.

        Lastly, you suggested he may have been their best player but that doesn’t mean he deserves more than a C, well how does a team whose best player rates a C get over 100 points? I agree, it wasn’t a good year for Hank by HIS standards, maybe he gives himself a C … but relative to all the other goalies out there the grade should be higher.

        • unlike you i didn’t create a fake facebook account as i already belonged to facebook. if i didn’t already have i would have done what you did but that is not the case. so my rebuttals to you will be done through disqus.

          i am quite confident that your name is not the name you chose for facebook purposes

      • No rationalizing needed. By all measures he had a consistently excellent season. Stats other than SV% and GAA actually matter when analyzing performance. You can’t ignore them and you can’t ignore the porous defense that plagued the team all year. He was their best player all year – without him they would have been competing for the first draft pick…

        • First off…he’s the worst stick handling goalie in the league. Right off the bat, that hurts his overall grade.

          Why Rangers fans ignore this, I’ll never know.

          The SV% stat is real. 12th in the league is basically a C grade. 20th, as it pertains to GAA, deals more with defense. Does SV% have a lot to do with defense too? Sure, of course.

          What grade would you give him? He was average after that first tremendous month. And if you wanna give him a B, or a B-, I can’t see how looking at a C grade makes you “shake your head.” …when a C is very feasible.

          • I think we can just pretty much agree to disagree. But “average” after the first month is just patently wrong. If that were true he would not have received more “stars” of the game than any other player in the league. He was tremendous in October and November. Had a bad December. Tremendous again after the AllStar break until his neck injury. When he came back he was “losing” games where he was making over 40 saves. He is a human being not a God. He can’t win games all by himself. And I agree he needs to be graded harder than anyone else because we expect so much from him and because he is the highest paid player on the team. But I still think the grade can’t exist in a vacuum.

          • Tremendous in October, solid in November.

            Average to good the rest of the way. I mean I just don’t see “consistently excellent.” Furthermore, these deep analytical stats don’t suggest that either.

            Hell, these stats don’t even suggest the NYR defense was among the league’s worst. Actually, it suggests the defense was middle of the pack.

            As a Rangers fan do I understand how terrible their defense? Of course….but we’re also comparing it to the stellar defenses of the last 5 seasons.

            An argument can be made those STELLAR defenses did a lot to help Hank.

            I see nothing wrong with a C grade. And to “sigh” based on a C is really looking for something to complain about, IMO.

            Again, what grade would you give him?

          • …and again…I would love to see these stats that backup your claim that this NYR defense was among the league’s worst and that Hank was excellent.

            I wouldn’t argue a grade on Hank from anywhere from a C- to a B.

        • …and guess what…when you DO make $8.5M, the most on the team, you ARE graded on a curve.

          You need to be tremendous. He simply wasn’t (aside from the first month). That first month he DID save the NYR porous defense. The rest of the year…he didn’t make a major difference.

        • NYR, 6th in the league in shots against per 60 minutes (26.6). Do I agree their defense was horrible? Yes. But we’re also grading that out on a curve as well in comparison to their GREAT defenses over the last several seasons.

          Their defense was middle of the pack as well in terms of stats. Don’t lose sight of that.

          Hank’s deep, analytical stats aren’t anything special. You’re gonna have to enlighten me on some of these tremendous analytical stats for me to buy he’s better than a C.

          He was 12th in FA60 with a 43.2
          He was 17th in GA60 with a 1.93

          NYR were 7th in FA60 with a 36.5 (that’s NOT porous defense according to the stats!!!!).

          Rangers best player? Arguably, sure. Doesn’t mean he deserves anything better than a C.

          Jesper Fast, perhaps J.T. Miller….I can’t think of many more who can grade out decently this season.