What Will Henrik Lundqvist Do For an Encore?
Henrik Lundqvist's 2011-12 season was one of the best years that any New York Rangers goaltender has had in the franchise's 86-year history. The Blueshirts' goaltender set career highs in wins (39), goals against average (1.97), and save percentage (.930%).
Lundqvist's career year led to his first Vezina Trophy, only the fourth time a Rangers goalie won the award (Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure were co-winners in 1970-71).
With high personal and team expectations for the 2012-13 season, is it possible that Lundqvist will be able to replicate, or even improve on his remarkable Vezina-winning season?
Putting up the same numbers he did a season ago will be difficult, but topping his career-year with another one is a long shot. Here are the reasons why:
Wrong Side of 30
Lundqvist is by no means old, but ‘The King' will turn 31 years old in March. He's still in the prime of his career, and even if Lundqvist's statistics do drop off, it won't be dramatic. However, the chances of him improving on his great year would be better if he was 24 going on 25 instead of 30 going on 31.
How Much Better Can the Numbers Get?
Thirty-nine wins, a 1.97 goals against average, and a .930 save percentage were good enough to for Lundqvist to be considered the best goalie in the league, and one of the top three players in the league. If he puts up the identical numbers in 2012-13, he will at the very worst be a nominee for the Vezina.
However, even getting back to that level will be a difficult task. As recent history has shown, the number of times a goaltender has put up those types of numbers once, and then follow it up with a similar stat line have been few and far between.
The last goaltender to post back-to-back seasons with a sub-2.00 GAA was Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars in 2002-03 and 2003-04. Also, no goaltender has posted back-to-back seasons with a .930 or higher save percentage since the 2004-05 lockout.
Lundqvist will likely be the Rangers' MVP for a team record 7th straight season in 2012-13. Even if the numbers aren't what they were in 2011-12, the fate of the Blueshirts' season could very well hinge on what ‘The King' does in between the pipes.
What do you guys think? Will Lundqvist have an even better year this year? Will his numbers decline slightly? And can he become the first Ranger ever to win back-to-back Vezina Trophies?