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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.