After over 15,000 miles of travel over the last month, the New York Rangers will finally get to sleep in their own beds for a few weeks as they settle in and open the partially renovated Madison Square Garden with a 6-game homestand.
Through seven games played in three countries on two continents and five different time zones, here are a few overall stats:
- The Rangers are the 5th most penalized team with 50 minutes and are 12th on the penalty kill with an 86.5% success rate.
- Monday night’s 2 power play goals against the Jets elevated the Rangers from dead last in power play percentage to 25th, with a mind-blowing 10.7% conversion rate.
- The Rangers have managed to score 14 goals, coming to an average of 2 per game. One was a shorthanded goal by Brandon Prust in Calgary. Three were on the power play. Four of those were scored in one game (against the Canucks on October 18th). They have given up 13 goals, one an empty netter.
- They have taken 156 shots, and have 222 shots against.
Despite all that – the incomplete or non-existent efforts, taking too many bad penalties, the lack of scoring overall, the purported 2nd line of Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan being virtually MIA and the absence of 2 of the top 4 defensemen from the lineup (Marc Staal and Michael Sauer) – the Rangers are 3-2-2, including going a surprising 3-1 on the Western Canadian leg of the trip.
They can mostly thank strong goaltending for that accomplishment.
It’s no secret that the Rangers’ hopes and expectations fall predominantly on Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulders. It’s pretty much been the status quo since the lockout. About this time six years ago, the average Ranger fan was getting to know Lundqvist, an obscure 7th-rounder from the 2000 draft. After managing to make the team as the backup to Kevin Weekes, he took full advantage when Weekes was injured. He had a stellar rookie season – compiling a 30-12-9 record in 53 games, a .922 save percentage and a 2.24 goals against average. He also backstopped Sweden to Olympic gold in Turin, and received his first Vezina nomination. Not bad for a rookie. Freshmen goalies sometimes burst on the scene out of nowhere, dazzle us and just as quickly fizzle and fade to obscurity. Fortunately, Lundqvist has not fallen into that category.
Twenty one goaltenders were taken ahead of Lundqvist in the 2000 draft. Fourteen never played in a single NHL game. Two got into one NHL game (neither a complete game). The other five are names that are recognizable: Rick DiPietro (1st overall by the Islanders); Ilya Bryzgalov(44th overall by the Ducks); Dan Ellis (60th overall by the Stars); Mikael Tellqvist (70th overall by the Maple Leafs); Roman Cechmanek (171st overall by the Flyers). Only three (DiPietro, Bryzgalov and Ellis) are still on NHL rosters.
Lundqvist’s 2-2-2 record is not indicative of his numbers to this point – a .942 save percentage, 1.82 goals against average and 1 shutout. Those show just how truly good he has been early on in this season, and just how much he has kept the Rangers in games so far despite the lackluster play.
Broadway productions need a strong understudy for the show to go on when the star needs a night off. This one is no different. Martin Biron’s success is not only critical for the Rangers on the whole, but for Lundqvist as well. The whole point of bringing him in was to give Lundqvist a backup that could be relied on, and not feel like you have to take a handful of Rolaids once it was announced the backup was getting the start. Biron has fit that bill.
Biron finally got his first planned start of the season Monday in the 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He came in Saturday night to finish out the third period against the Edmonton Oilers after Lundqvist abruptly left in pain with what turned out to be a sore foot caused by his skates. Biron only faced three shots in that game, but was definitely tested by the Jets, stopping 27 of 28 shots, including holding down the fort in an intense minute-and-a-half where the Jets pinned the Rangers in the defensive zone.
The plan last season was for Biron to play in the area of 15-20 games, but only made it through 14 complete games (appearing in 17 total) due to the broken collarbone he suffered in late February that finished his season. Having to make 26 straight starts to finish the season, Lundqvist wound up appearing in 68 games. For ‘The King”, that’s a light workload. It was the first time since his rookie year he played in less than 70 games.
Barring injury, he plan with Biron is expected to be similar this season If the bulk of his performances can be like they were Monday against the Jets, the Rangers will take it.
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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927