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Per usual, the Rangers biggest strength has come between the pipes

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After an early season scare, the Rangers goaltenders have once again answered the call, and then some.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Last Tuesday night's loss versus Boston marked the Rangers 21st game of the season, giving us more than one reason to drink besides the '13-'14 campaign coming of age. Over 25 percent of the way through the season, the Rangers are below .500, where they've found themselves for the majority of the season. The pretty good news for the team? The new Metropolitan Division has underperformed as a whole, and if the playoffs started today, the Rangers would find themselves in them. Will that be the case if this keeps up for another 61 games?

In part 1, we examine the Rangers goaltenders, who, per the standard, have answered the call, and then some. Keep in mind this report card is only grading player's performance through game number 21.

Cam Talbot, A

The situation in goal this season probably couldn't have started out much worse. Henrik Lundqvist was injured early, something he played through, until the team thought it was best to sit him. Martin Biron, who himself had a shaky start, elected to retire. Enter Cam Talbot.

The rookie netminder has started five games for the Rangers this season, posting a stellar 4-1 record with a 1.56 goals against average, and his first career shutout. Most importantly, Talbot has provided Lundqvist with much needed rest, and Alain Vingeault confidence he can go to his second guy.

Highlight of the sesaon: Rangers 1, Montreal 0; Talbot's first career shutout, and a crucial two points in the midst of a three-game stretch the Rangers have only mustered two goals scored.

Henrik Lundqvist, B+

Goalies and can sometimes be like pitchers in baseball: their win-loss record doesn't always reflect how well they have been performing. This season, with Henrik Lundqvist, that's exactly the case. Despite posting stellar numbers, with a 2.38 goals against average and posting two shutouts, Lundqvist sits with a record of 6-9-0 thanks in large part to an inconsistent Rangers offense.

But of course, everyone knows how pivotal Lundqvist is to the franchise. An early season, undisclosed injury provided a minor panic, but since sitting out a few games to get healthy, the King is back on top of his game. Lundqvist doesn't look like a player preoccupied in a contract year, and instead continues to compete on a nightly basis and give the Rangers a chance to win.

Highlight of the season: In a big, divisional win on the road early in the season, Lundqvist denied Brooks Laich with a strong save on a breakaway.

Incomplete: Martin Biron

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