It is no secret that Henrik Lundqvist is the most valuable player on the New York Rangers, and his recent play just goes further in proving that. The Swedish-born netminder has been completely dominant in goal for the Blueshirts and is without question one of the hottest goaltenders in the National Hockey League right now.
His overall stats may be skewed due to inconsistencies with the defensive squad that plays in front of him, in addition to a poor month of December for the 08-09 all-star, but if he can manage to play like he has now leading all the way up to the last game of the regular season, the Rangers will have a good shot at making the playoffs. There is no question that without Henrik the Rangers would not have been in action in the postseason the past two years, and that may very well be the case again this year, but whether this team pulls it together to make the cut in the Eastern Conference is still to be determined.
This time of year is Henrik's time; the time in which he begins the rise to a playoff spot as an individual, and sometimes finds ways to singlehandedly win games himself. He may not wear a letter on his chest (or helmet), but Hank is one of the obvious leaders on this team, more in what he does than what he says.
When you go down the board of the outcomes of games played in January, you will see that Lundqvist, for the most part, has only been allowing one to two goals per contest. Of course, there a couple of five and six goal results to Carolina and Washington, but other than that, the goals against have been kept relatively low.
Continue Reading After the Jump>>
Seeing Martin Brodeur down at the other end of the rink definitely ignites something in Henrik's head, because he has played his two best games against the New Jersey Devils this season. First there was the 1-0 Shootout loss earlier in the month, where both goalies were unbelievable. Then there was Saturday night's 3-1 victory where Hank had the glove flashing every opportunity he had to do so. The remarkable robbery of Mike Motteau is the save that stands out in my head when thinking back to that eventful evening at Madison Square Garden. He always seems to pull off one of those ridiculous snags out of the air each season, and that one right there is by far the best for Lundqvist in 2009-10.
Above I mentioned about Henrik's catching glove, which is an area of his game he has been criticized for his entire career. The opposition would pick that side on him when given the opportunity. It was almost as if Lundqvist would try and use it as a second blocker, by blocking the puck instead of catching. However, recently goaltending coach Benoit Allaire sat down with Lundqvist before the New Jersey game and had him adjust his style to catch the puck more often. Well, we clearly saw what the results were Saturday, because that glove was red hot.
Now we will look to see if that remains a constant, or if he will go back to his old ways. If Henrik continues to use the glove like he did against the Devs, it will be just another factor that comes into play when shutting down the opposing team, making him even harder to beat. That may not even sound possible with him being near perfect every night, but the addition of a functional glove into his arsenal would sure benefit him.
My only worry now is the Olympics. Lundqvist will be playing a major role on Team Sweden, especially if they are looking to defend Gold, which they definitely have the ability to do. That would have Hank playing three straight weeks of non-stop hockey, and you can only hope that it does not strain him physically. Like I said, he will be one of, if not the only reason we make the playoffs this year, and the last thing we need is the Olympics throwing him off his game.