Henrik Lundqvist's struggles amplifying New York Rangers' issues

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has not played particularly well for New York this season, but The King is not the only one at fault. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

There is no way to sugarcoat it, Henrik Lundqvist has not been good.

Over his past 11 starts, The King has been anything but royal. In that stretch, he has been pulled four times and posted a goals-against average of 4.46 GAA with a .873 save percentage.

The most obvious reason for Lundqvist’s regression is the fact that the 35-year-old goalie is beginning to lose a step. The Swedish stopper may no longer be capable of sustaining a high level of play over a full NHL season.

However, simply labeling the situation as such would be wrong. While Henrik Lundqvist has been a big portion of the Rangers struggles lately, he cannot be blamed at all for where the team is in the standings. While the veteran netminder’s age may be a reason for his faulty performances lately, the workload he has been exposed to this season is treacherous, and the real issue at hand with New York.

The Blueshirts have been horrendous at limiting opposing offenses. The team has allowed the fourth highest total of shots allowed per game with a grotesque total of 34 shots against. The only teams worse are the Maple Leafs, Panthers, and Islanders which begs one to ask the question “Do they know what defense is in New York state?”

The Rangers defense has been disappointing all season. The addition of Kevin Shattenkirk has not made the impact the team anticipated. Shattenkirk was reportedly playing through a knee injury since September, which forced the defenseman to get surgery in January. Prior to his surgery on January 19th, the offensive defenseman had been held off the scoreboard without a goal for 30 straight games. His return to the team’s lineup this season is still questionable.

Marc Staal was one of the bright spots defensively on this team. Staal, who was competing for ice-time to start the season has played his way into a solid top-four role with a plus-4 rating. The aged blueliner has not been able to stay healthy lately, as he has missed 10 of the teams last 15 games recovering from a pair of injuries. The Rangers only won three of the 10 games in his absence.

New York, who suffers from a lack of depth at the position has had to play inexperienced defensemen like Tony DeAngelo and Brady Skjei a lot more than warranted. Skjei, who had an average ice-time of 17:28 last season has seen that number shoot up to 20:27 this year. In his last five games, he has logged 22 minutes or more in four games. This uptick in ice-time has seen Skjei drop from a plus-10 rating to a minus-11 this season.

Tony DeAngelo is one of the fresh faces in New York that have been called upon when injuries strike. Unfortunately, DeAngelo is a defensive liability and has achieved a minus-17 rating in just 22 games this season. He is known for his offensive capabilities and he has not provided much of that either.  The budding Blueshirt has no goals and five assists this season.

After Lundqvist’s recent woes it is easy to forget that he was a part of the NHL All-Star Game just a few weeks ago. After a rocky October to start the season, goalie GQ rocked a save percentage of .927 in November, .936 in December, and .921 in January.

Over the three months where Lundqvist was playing unbelievably, he faced approximately 30 shots per game. The 30 shots per game ranks below the Rangers record of 34 shots against on the season as a whole. Plain and simple, when the Rangers defense is playing something close to league average, their netminder was among the best. When the unit is playing hurt or just simply struggling in their own zone, the results from their goalie are much different.

The goaltender is the easiest position to point at for better or for worse. Henrik Lundqvist has been blamed for a lot of what has gone wrong in the Big Apple, but it is easy to see that not all of the Rangers wrong-doings fall on the netminder’s shoulders.


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