Henrik Lundqvist appeared in 63 games during the 2017-18 campaign, posting a record of 26-26-7 with a .915 SV% and a 2.98 GAA It was a year in which he played more than he should have, and one that saw things go south in the second half; even more so once the team released “the letter.”
Prior to the All Star break, Lundqvist appeared in 42 of the Rangers’ 50 games, and posted a record of 21-13-4 with a .922 SV% and a 2.61 GAA. At 5v5, Lundqvist had the eighth-highest GSAA at 6.47. He also posted a respectable SV% of .930, and had a 2.36 GAA, all while facing the second-most high danger shots (279) up to that point in the season.
From that point on things took a turn for the worst, and Lundqvist would post a record of 5-13-3 with a .901 SV% and 3.75 GAA the rest of the way. At 5v5, Lundqvist’s second half -7.95 GSAA was fifth-worst. This go-round he posted a .907 SV% and a 3.46 GAA while facing 145 high danger shots; the 10th-most among goaltenders.
Alain Vigneault was fired almost immediately after the Rangers’ season ended, and the hiring of David Quinn was expected to bring a new approach on how goaltending starts were handled, and that’s exactly what happened in 2018-19.
Lundqvist headed into the season eager to rebound from a season that got away from him in the second half, and his 52 appearances were the third-fewest of his career. His fewest appearances (43) came during the 2012-13 lockout shortened season, and his second fewest (46) came in 2014-15 when he missed time after taking a puck to the throat. All of this is my long way of saying that for the first time in his career, Lundqvist was treated differently.
Much like 2017-18, the first half was better to Hank than the second. He went 15-12-7 with a .908 SV% and 3.01 GAA in all situations. In 5v5 situations, Lundqvist posted a .923 SV%, a 2.44 GAA, and a 4.15 GSAA.
The second half featured a decline, although it wasn’t as pronounced as the prior year’s; more on that later. Lundqvist’s overall line included a record of 7-12-4, a .902 SV%, and a 3.48 GAA. In 5v5 situations, he posted a .921 SV%, a 2.58 GAA, and a -0.36 GSAA. It wasn’t much different than his first half, but it was a case in which he wasn’t making some saves he usually makes, and it resulted in some more pucks ending up in the back of the net.
With that said, Lundqvist’s overall stat line includes a record of 18-23-10 with a .907 SV% and a 3.07 GAA in all situations. On the surface that looks really bad by his standards, and in many ways it is worse than he’d like.
But drilling a bit deeper reveals that in 5v5 situations he faced 344 high danger shots which was the 13th-most in the league. Overall his 5v5 line included a .922 SV%, a 2.48 GAA, and he finished the season with a positive GSAA of 3.49 which was 25th in the league, after finishing as a negative in 2017-18.
Here’s a detailed look at his splits 5v5, and it shows an interesting story.
2017-18 First Half: 42 GP — .930 SV% | 2.36 GAA | 6.47 GSAA
2018-19 First Half: 35 GP — .923 SV% | 2.44 GAA | 4.15 GSAA
2017-18 Second Half: 21 GP — .907 SV% | 3.46 GAA | -7.95 GSAA
2018-19 Second Half: 17 GP — .921 SV% | 2.58 GAA | -0.36 GSAA
2017-18 Total: 63 GP — .922 SV% | 2.73 GAA | -1.20 GSAA
2018-19 Total: 52 GP — .922 SV% | 2.48 GAA | 3.49 GSAA
This by all accounts is a solid improvement from the prior year, all with the caveat of him playing 11 fewer games, and something that Coach Quinn should take into account when determining how to deploy his goaltenders next season.
If the Rangers have playoff aspirations, there’s no reason to burn out their starter in the regular season, and having a rotation plan makes sense. It is promising to see that he didn’t fall of as hard in the second half as he did the year before, and it shows that things weren’t as bad as his 2-11-3 record from February on would indicate.
While Lundqvist is no longer the goaltender he was once was, with proper deployment and rest he can be an asset to the team. Here’s a visual look, something that will also appear in Alexandar Georgiev’s report card, on how the team looked in front of each netminder.
The Rangers were practically league average in shot generation in games Lundqvist played, and were +7% to the league in shots surrendered. This is bad, but not as terrible as things were in front of Georgiev. This picture speaks volumes on how bad the team was defensively, and highlights how badly this area of the team needs to be improved.
With that said, what grade should Lundqvist get for his season?
Final Grade: B-
Banter Consensus: B
You might think this grade is high, but I think it is fair based on his overall improvement from the prior season. It goes without saying that a lot is expected of Lundqvist, and he showed that he can still be counted on, and ended the year as one of the league’s better goaltenders by goals saved above average.
Lundqvist is 37 years old, and has two years left on his contract. The 2018-19 season looks bad by NHL dot com stats, but a deeper dive showed that Lundqvist played better overall than he did the prior year 5v5; which is where he logged the majority of his minutes. This summer is an important offseason for the veteran goaltender, and having two youngsters in Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin vying for more playing time should bring out the best in Lundqvist in training camp.
If the Rangers are able to ice a better team in 2019-20 than they did in 2018-19 — especially on defense — it is reasonable to expect that Lundqvist will give them an opportunity to win. Ideally he will play 45 to 50 games, and that will allow the organization to continue to evaluate Georgiev, as well as give Shesterkin to show what he can do at the NHL level.
Data via NaturalStatTrick
2019 Report Cards: Ryan Strome / Filip Chytil / Brendan Lemieux / Tony DeAngelo / Chris Kreider / Pavel Buchnevich / Neal Pionk / Cristoval Nieves / Kevin Shattenkirk / Marc Staal / Jimmy Vesey / Brady Skjei / Connor Brickley / Vladislav Namestnikov/ Vinni Lettieri/ Brendan Smith / Fredrik Claesson / Assistant Coaches