Henrik Lundqvist and the "Cup Window"

Jared Wickerham

Henrik Lundqvist had another dominant (despite shortened) year in 2012-2013. He has been NYR's rock since 2005, but a decline is inevitable.

Welcome to the official "Thank You Henrik" article of the 2013 offseason. This piece doesn't really need to be written, as we all know well that The King is named The King for a reason; he carries NYR and has done so for a few seasons now. Without him, the Rangers would've probably stayed in that horrible 12 through 8 seed area in the East before his arrival in 2005.

We will thank Henrik in three parts. Let's jump in.

1) 2012-13 was better than 2011-12 (kind of)

Luqvist won the Vezina in the spring of 2012, what else could he do? Well, simply duplicate his efforts while facing more shots, THAT'S WHAT. Naturally the asterisk to the whole situation is that Lundqvist started only 43 games during the regular season; otherwise he would have approached 70 if the season had been played in full. And please don't point towards playoffs, because despite playing in eight less games, Henrik was actually 0.003 Save% points better than the 2012 spring run. ZERO percent of the past season's disappointment should be assigned to The King.

Here's what Lundqvist's 0.926 Save% was mostly made of this season:

Lundqvistevpksv_medium

(click to enlarge)

He couldn't duplicate being a god again on the PK, as I thought might happen. Still dominant at even strength, though. And the proof as to why it was better:

Lundqvistsa_medium

(click to enlarge)

I put the totals of what shots he saw this past season on a 70 game pace, so its clear if we had seen a full season he would have most likely handled a higher workload. This is why I think Henrik should win the Vezina, despite Bobrovsky being slightly better while seeing slightly fewer shots.

We'll come back to this when I discuss the "Cup Window" at the end. Let's take a look at just how dominant Lunqvist has been since the real lockout.

2) Henrik Lundqvist and his Peers

The charts that follow are the brainchild of Chris Boyle, the writer of this article regarding Patrick Roy. Few, if any, doubt Lundqvist's talent despite him not being rewarded with a Stanley Cup quite yet. With that said, how dominant has Lundqvist been? Well, let's compare Henrik's overall Save% throughout his career next to the NHL league average:

Lundqvistsv_medium

(click to enlarge)

The King has been consistently good. Down the left side of the chart shows the difference (positive or negative) between Lundqvist and the NHL average save percentage for that season. Henrik Lundqvist has never been below the NHL average save percentage for a season. To boot, he has been over that +0.01 difference line (i.e. the difference between 0.910 and 0.920 save%) for six of his eight NHL seasons. What we've witnessed is nothing short of greatness. The average NHL save percentage by season can be found here, but it typically ranges from 0.910 to 0.914 nowadays.

But what about his peers? Glad you asked. Here are seven goaltenders of varying age that have been considered some of the best while Hank has been in the league:

Niklas Backstrom:

Backstromsv_medium

(click to enlarge)

My former home of Minnesota didn't exactly maximize Backstrom's solid years. He's on the decline with age, it appears. Note: Backstrom was in Finland for 05-06, hence the zero.

Roberto Luongo

Luongosv_medium

(click to enlarge)

The same could be argued with Luongo, but at least he's consistently above average.

Ryan Miller

Millersv_medium

(click to enlarge)

Lundqvist's challenger for consistency, in my mind. I'm just really glad he had his hot year in Vancouver and led the USA to the gold medal game.

Tim Thomas

Thomassv_medium

(click to enlarge)

Thomas has been very good as well. If he had randomly showed up for the Islanders agains the Penguins, the odds of an upset go up. Note: Thomas DNP in 12-13, hence the zero.

Marc-Andre Fleury

Fleurysv_medium

(click to enlarge)

This is a chart that shows how a goaltender can become one of the "leagues best" when he's defending a goal behind one of the leagues best skating and scoring teams (notice the drop of the quotations). Fleury has been the butt of many jokes in the stats community for the past year and a half. And the man that replaced him:

Tomas Vokoun

Voukonsv_medium

(click to enlarge)

Vokoun has been one of the best goaltenders since the real lockout that NO ONE has talked about. A slight decline, yes, but he joins Lundqvist in being the only goalie to play in every year (of the past eight) above the league average line. The fact that the Panthers couldn't win with him tell you the type of roster that was in front of him.

The take from all of this? Not only has Lundqvist been one of the best since he showed up in 2005, but he's done it consistently. While there are a lot of names above in the decline, there are a few new names on the block such as Bobrovsky, Rask, and Quick that are leading the next generation. Let's see if Lundqvist can teach them a thing or two at his ripe age of 31.

3) The Cup Window and Beyond

We are arguably seeing a Hall of Fame career on Broadway barring any unforeseen derailment of Lundqvist's abilities. It would have certainly helped if Sather hadn't made over-priced free-agent signings, but what's done is done. Nash can be the one big "superstar" or whatever you want to call him, but the rest should stay pretty much as is (I will go into this in other posts here soon).

The only thing that makes me cringe about all of this is that, as you can hopefully now see with 100% clarity, the Rangers "Cup Window" is heavily (if not completely) correlated with Lundqvist's play in goal. Look at the Cup champs since 2005, almost all had hot goalies dabbling with overall save percentages over 0.930. The only way this NYR roster wins without Lundqvist over 0.930 is if they go on an extremely hot/lucky scoring streak during a playoff run. Full stop.

This offseason, I wouldn't mind seeing NYR being a little proactive in their succession plan with Henrik. Yes, Hank is only 31, but as you saw above with Luongo (34), Backstrom (35), and Vokoun (36); the decline is inevitable. Cam Talbot posted a 0.918 Save% in the AHL this year, but he's already 25. The King will have his net until he seemingly falls apart, but when that happens I would like the Rangers to not be scrambling, is all.

To close, I'll just leave it at this: Thank You Henrik., once again. More stats articles to come, focusing on team-level and individual players. If you have a request or question, leave them in the comments (doesn't have to be NYR related, either).

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