King Henrik and the Hell Centre

Hard-hitting analysis from Channel 9 News

Henrik Lundqvist stinks against the Canadiens. Everyone knows it. It’s a fact you’ll undoubtedly hear spewed forth from the lips of Mike Milbury at least 6 times in the pregame show alone. Is it true? Can it be? Can our lord and savior really be so vulnerable? Follow along and I’ll tell you all you need to know in this super intelligent analysis, of which only a small 80% portion was based on hearsay and conjecture and I don’t even mention Corsi once.

If you’re not into reading, I’ll spoil it for you now: it’s a little true. For his career, The King has compiled a record of 13-11-2 against the Habs, with a GAA of 2.85, a SV% of .897, and one shutout; perhaps not sterling numbers, but not quite as bad as, say, just about anyone who donned goalie pads for the Rangers in that black hole of a decade between Mike Richter and Henrik Lundqvist. There is a caveat, however.

I constantly hear people say he stinks against the Canadiens. Phrased this way, the assertion is genuinely false. In fact, he has had some mighty stellar games against them. His first ever game against Montreal was a 38-save victory. Were you to utter the words, "Henrik stinks against the Canadiens in Montreal," however, and you might be onto something (shut up if you already knew this, I’m the storyteller here).

Total: 13-11-2, 2.85 GAA, .897 SV%
Home: 9-6-0, 2.08 GAA, .917 SV%, 1 SO
Away: 4-5-2, 3.87 GAA, .876 SV%, 0 SO, 4 times mistaken for Mike Dunham

Henrik’s numbers against the Canadiens at the Garden have actually been quite good, with a goals against and save percent within a Tortorella water bottle throw of his career averages. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 games, and he only gave up more than three goals a single time in one of those typical Ranger games where they outshot their opponent 39 to 25 but allowed five goals (I bet 38 of those shots were backhanders from the boards at the blue line, which is weird because Rick Nash was not on the team at that time).

But at the Bell Centre – or Centre Bell as Les Habitants would call it – holy woof. It has been a veritable haunted hayride, and he is very easily startled and quite possibly also as allergic to hay as he is to writing thank you notes for the bottle of Pinot Noir I send him every year on Valentine’s Day. He has given up 4+ goals 6 times in only 12 games there. The King was given the hook twice in those games, with one instance giving rise to the greatest 34 minutes of Matt Zaba’s life. So what gives? Is he afraid of their red sweaters? Can we #BlameBoyle?

Surprisingly enough, I found that the Rangers were not mauled in shots in these 12 games, with Montreal averaging 31.08 and the Blueshirts putting up 30.58 (at home, they outshot MTL 30 to 25). Another thing that surprised me was that the Habs were not buoyed by a swell of power play goals, scoring only 13 of 43 goals with the man advantage compared to 12 out of 30 at the Garden. Even focusing specifically on Hank’s aforementioned six four-plus-goal performances didn’t reveal any malicious trends; the Rangers were ahead or even in shots in 4 of those games, and only 3 of 28 goals came with an extra skater. (Sidebar: this is where George would normally interject that the Rangers had a bad Fenwick percentage but possession stats don’t go back that far so I get to be right this time!)

So I ask again: what gives? Perhaps the answer is buried somewhere inside a greater dynamic. Perhaps his reflexes are frequently dulled by overconsumption of poutine and éclairs. Please join me tomorrow for part two of this hilarious and well-written story as I take an in-depth look at those six nightmarish games for Le Henrik in the City of French Stuff. Hopefully we can draw some meaningful conclusions about Lundqvist's overall play in Montreal and figure out what to expect with as many as 4 games coming up in their building.

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