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2020 Report Card: Henrik Lundqvist

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Lundqvist went above and beyond for 15 seasons as a Ranger, and his time with the team appears to have reached its end.

New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Expectations

Henrik Lundqvist finished the 2018-19 season with a record of 18-23-10, a 5v5 SV% of .923, a GSAA (goals saved above average) of 4.54, and a GSAx (goals saved above expected) of 2.77. These numbers were more than fair given the chaotic and frenetic team that played in front of him, but heading into 2019-20 it was clear that the future was coming.

The reason for pointing this out is because many instead focused on his NHL dot com ledger which reflected a .907 SV%, and for the first time in his career, a goals against above 3.00.

Alexandar Georgiev, after showing himself to be a capable netminder, was in a position to get significantly more playing time, it was only a matter of time before Igor Shesterkin would be promoted from Hartford to the big club after coming to North America.

The expectation was that Lundqvist would play an even more reduced role, and would temporarily serve as a mentor to the kids in addition to being a capable starter whenever the team needed him to do so.

Performance

Lundqvist’s 19-20 season was decent even though the NHL dot com log might suggest otherwise. Per Evolving-Hockey, Lundqvist posted a delta Fenwick save percentage of 0.54, which is calculated by taking his actual Fenwick save percentage (.9448) and subtracting it from his expected Fenwick save percentage (.9394)

Fenwick includes goals, shots on goal, missed shots, and excludes blocked shots. In addition to that, Lundqvist saved 5.38 goals above expected when factoring in the shot quality he faced, and a GSAA of -0.42. For reference, Georgiev had a dFSV% of 0.03, a GSAx of 0.30, and a GSAA of -1.06. in 34 games to Lundqvist’s 30.

Here’s a chart looking at where Lundqvist faced shots, and how goals against compared to expected goals against.

And for the sake of comparison, here’s Georgiev’s Rorschach.

While goalies certainly have to stop the pucks thrown their way, how the players skating in front of them have an impact too. It has been widely stated that the Rangers look like a different team when Hank is in net, and it is true.

In games Lundqvist appeared, the Rangers posted the following numbers in front of him at 5v5 per Natural Stat Trick:

  • 43.79 CF% (1002.53 for | 1286.65 against)
  • 48.87 GF% (52.4 for | 54.83 against)
  • 44.98 xGF% (46.84 for | 57.29 against)
  • 44.25 SCF% (507.46 for | 639.32 against)

Here’s how the team performed in front of Georgiev:

  • 47.76 CF% (1355.35 for | 1482.38 against)
  • 48.81 GF% (60.6 for | 65.36 against)
  • 46.88 xGF% (54.8 for | 62.1 against)
  • 47.72 SCF% (637.57 for | 698.51 against)

Another way to visualize the team defense in front of goaltenders is with these heat maps from HockeyViz; red indicates where more shots were taken, blue shows were more were suppressed.

Via HockeyViz

The difference here is that with Lundqvist in goal the team did not possess the puck, had poor expected goals, actual goals, and scoring chances for. They were poor for Georgiev too, but generally all better (except GF% by seven basis points) than they were in front of Lundqvist. This isn’t exactly breaking news, as it was something that happened frequently during his career.

And to that point, part of Lundqvist’s legend was his ability to overcome obstacles in his way and churn out impressive results year after year. But like with all elite athletes, Lundqvist’s reached a point where these herculean displays of excellence, a consistent staple during his prime, are now the exception and not the rule.


Final Grade: B

Banter Consensus: B

Lundqvist is 38 years old, and has all but officially played his last game as a New York Ranger with many rumblings suggesting he’ll be traded or bought out to afford him the chance to pick a new team without the “burden” of an $8.5 million cap hit. His 2019-20 was fine, although he’d more than likely call it a disappointment based on his extremely high standards, but there’s no doubt that he can still be a capable NHL goaltender.

The problem with someone like Lundqvist is he was so damn good for such a long time that fans got spoiled and were accustomed to a level of play that isn’t normal with regularity for goaltenders. The minute he started to slip, it was easy for some to get upset, and as he got older and performed more like a league average goaltender, fans criticism of his play revealed to a greater extent of how much they took Hank for granted.

Goaltending is such a fickle position, and for that reason we’ve seldom seem players like Lundqvist. Since taking over the job from Kevin Weekes in early 2005, fans following the team have only known Lundqvist as the leading man between the pipes.

I started watching the Rangers in 1999 as a seven-year-old, and caught the end of Mike Richter’s career. As he battled injuries, which ultimately forced him into an early retirement, I saw a slew of names that include but are not limited to — Mike Dunham, Dan Blackburn, Guy Hebert, Kirk McLean, Jason LaBarbera, Steve Valiquette, and Jussi Markkanen.

Mike Dunham Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

There were numerous backups who teamed up with Hank along the way whether it was Chad Johnson, Alex Auld, Valiquette, Kevin Weekes, Marty Biron, Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta, Alexandar Georgiev and so on; but Hank was always the guy.

He was the backbone of some god awful teams, and dragged many of them kicking and screaming to places they didn’t belong. Had Lundqvist been the beneficiary of some stronger teams, there’s no doubt in my mind he wins a Stanley Cup, at least 500 games, and maybe even challenges Patrick Roy’s 551 wins which is currently No. 2 all-time.

When you consider Lundqvist started his career at age 23, whereas someone like Brodeur won 27 games as a 21-year-old in 1993 and finished at age 42 having appeared in 1,266 games, it is hard to ask of more.

There are many moments we all think about deep down when it comes to many of the runs Lundqvist was at the helm of. It’s hard not to play the what if game, especially when looking back on the Los Angeles series, and a pair of home games in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final vs. Tampa. But I don’t think that is something related to just Lundqvist and this era of Rangers. I’d argue that fans of a certain vintage think the same of Emile Francis’ Rangers who did it all but win too.

If Lundqvist wants to play a few more years, it’s not inconceivable in the right spot he does make it to 500 wins, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of getting his ring.

But with all that said, Henrik Lundqvist was an amazing player, a generational talent, the face of a city and franchise who did everything but win a championship in a tough team sport that features numerous Hall of Famers who failed to do the same. If and when he eventually finds his new home, it will be hard to see him in a new sweater.

It will take some getting used to, and while this certainly appears to be the end of an era, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Long live the King.

Data via Evolving-Hockey, Hockey Viz, and Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted.