Rangers Analysis: Lighter Workload For Henrik Lundqvist This Season
The New York Rangers will only go as far as Henrik Lundqvist can take them, and that's not changing anytime soon. However, the Swedish netminder will have more help this season than he's had in any other since beginning his NHL career back in 2005-06. The Blueshirts now possess a solid defensive core, and also went out and acquired some offensive help this summer as well. There are no guarantees that everything will go as planned, but if it does, Hank will be one happy goaltender.
Not only will some of the pressure come off of Lundqvist to constantly keep the Rangers in close games, but his overall workload should become lighter as well. More "goals for" makes it easier for Lundqvist to hold the opposition to fewer "goals against", and that's the hope the organization has going into 2011-12. They've built this team around King Henrik, and although it has taken a while, they've finally built it right.
So aside from facing fewer shots and taking on less pressure, I would also like to see Lundqvist play in fewer games. Last season Henrik played in 68 total contests, which is more than what the Rangers would have liked to see. They didn't have that much of a choice, though, as back-up Marty Biron broke his collarbone late in the season. Still, though, even if Marty was healthy for the entire year, Lundqvist would have played in more games than he should have.
I'd personally prefer a 60-20 split between the two goalies this year, and obviously that is a rough number since there are 82 games in the season. People forget that Marty Biron was once a starting goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers and helped to carry them far into the playoffs a few years back. He may not be the same today as he was then, but he remains a very high quality netminder that the Rangers are fortunate to have.
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With exception of one or two games, Biron was fantastic between the pipes last season. He is a strong competitor like his partner in Henrik Lundqvist, and he puts a lot of pressure on himself to perform to a certain standard. He's proven to the coaching staff that he can handle himself against any caliber team, so I don't think there are any doubts that he will be getting more starts in the upcoming season.
This will keep Lundqvist fresh, mentally and physically, throughout the course of the year, especially in the playoffs. I think we all noticed how fatigued Hank was by the fourth or fifth game of that first-round series against Washington back in April, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with the fact that he was forced to play out the entire final third of the season with Biron out. That will change in 2011-12.
As a team gets better, a goaltender's job gets slightly easier. It's not a drastic change, but you do find that goalies on better teams traditionally put up better numbers. This is basically what has led to Roberto Luongo being overrated in the past. Lundqvist will never be overrated because he is just too good, but a slightly lighter workload won't hurt him, and will actually help in the long-run.
Your goalie is also your key to success, therefore it should be a main priority to make sure he is always fresh and focused throughout the season. I think with the roster the Rangers have entering the upcoming season, the chances of that actually/finally happening are much greater than in the past.