Henrik Lundqvist is the face of the New York Rangers. So far in 2018-19, he has continued to do what he does best, carry the Blueshirts.
The question where would the New York Rangers be without Henrik Lundqvist has been a question asked for the last 14 years. A question with a simple answer, a team that would not have had the success they’ve had during his tenure.
One of the many questions coming into the season surrounding the Blueshirts was whether or not Lundqvist could handle playing for a true rebuild. Which version of Lundqvist were they going to get? Would it be the Lundqvist who put a halt on Alain Vigneault’s fate in November a year ago? Or the Lundqvist who was flipping nets against Pittsburgh out of frustration?
Through six games in 2018-19, the Lundqvist the Rangers are getting is the one who is able to put a team on his back. The 205th overall pick in the 2000 NHL entry draft who took the Garden, and NHL, by storm upon his debut in the 2005-06 season is simply put doing it all for the Blueshirts.
Looking at the numbers, Lundqvist is right up at the top of the league in the major goaltending areas. Of goaltenders who have played in at least four games this year, he ranks tied for first in games played (6), ninth in save percentage (.930), 10th in goals-against-average (2.31), tied for 14th in goals allowed (14), and fourth in even-strength save percentage (.957). He has only allowed seven goals at even strength this season, only four goaltenders have allowed fewer.
We are seeing vintage Lundqvist so far this season. What he is doing, is quite frankly remarkable considering he will be turning 37-years-old in March, is coming off an offseason where he had knee surgery. The age might not have been a major question for “the King” but, the knee definitely was considering it cost him time in 2017-18.
Considering that Lundqvist is 100 percent healthy and has had plenty of rest the last couple of offseasons, it is no surprise he is off to one of the better starts of his career. If you dive deeper into the numbers, he has only allowed three or more goals in a game this season once, Thursday in Washington. Outside of that game, he’s allowed just two goals in his first five games of a season, the best start to his career.
Henrik Lundqvist has allowed two goals in each of his first five appearances in 2018-19. He has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his first five appearances in a season for the first time in his NHL career. #NYR
— NYR Stats & Info (@NYRStatsInfo) October 17, 2018
Without Lundqvist, this young rebuilding Rangers team could be winless after seven games. In their two wins, he has had to come up with some big-time performances allowing New York to stay in the game. A 3-2 overtime win against the Sharks Oct. 11 was only possible because Lundqvist made 41 saves. He has made 30 or more saves in four of his first six games, with the Blueshirts winning one of those contests.
If that is not enough to show how impressive he has been, the one game he did not start in this season saw the Rangers fall 8-5 in their worst performance of the season. Alexandar Georgiev was between the pipes that night and did not look great.
Simply put, he has put this young Rangers team on his back early in the season and has set the standard for what he and the coaching staff is expecting from his young team. He has allowed them to be competitive, allowed them to build some confidence to go out there and make some mistakes. The only difference now compared to last year is that there is a better structure in front of Lundqvist this season.
The first month of the season is slowly coming to a close. The question now becomes whether or not Lundqvist can keep this up throughout the rest of the season. He has a bit of an advantage with the Rangers schedule being a favorable one with plenty of days off. November, on the other hand, presents a different story where they have 16 days off that are not spread out as they were in October.
Those are all fair questions to be asked when it comes to Lundqvist’s play. But for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy watching vintage Henrik Lundqvist because he is carrying this Blueshirt team early on.