You would have to forgive the paying crowd at Madison Square Garden if they gasped early in the second period.
When Henrik Lundqvist took a puck to the throat, you had to wonder if this was the end of the all-world netminder.
Or at least was this the end of the Rangers’ chances this season?
“I was getting ready for the shot and I could feel a stick pull up my helmet so I lost vision of the puck,” Lundqvist said. “I had a bad feeling because I could kind of see the puck coming, then I lost track of it. When I got hit, it’s obviously extremely painful and it’s hard to breathe for a couple minutes. I got very lightheaded and got a little worried the first minute or so but they told me just to breathe and I slowly started to feel better.
“The first couple of minutes it was more for me to see if I was going to start to feel better after a while and slowly I did. I had some headaches the rest of the game but I guess that was normal because I couldn’t breathe there for a little bit. That was a reaction.”
OK, no harm, no foul, but you had to think about how fleeting the Ranger season can be. If they lost No. 30 for any period of time, then game over and see you next season, because no matter how well Cam Talbot plays, there’s no way the Rangers can overcome losing their franchise goalie.
Sure, every team has the same problem, but the Blueshirts are built from the goal out and Lundqvist is their most important player, bar none.
Understand, no one here is saying it’s time to replace Lundqvist, but it takes time for goalies to develop. Remember, The King was drafted in 2000 and didn’t make his NHL debut until 2005. Along the way, Mike Richter’s career was cut short due to a few concussions and his heir apparent, Dan Blackburn, had a career ending shpulder injury.
Lundqvist is going to be 33 in March and is signed through age 38. You can see where we are going with the math here. If it takes a goalie four to five years to mature then the Rangers need to start looking for No. 30’s successor this upcoming draft. They simply don’t have anyone in the system like him, and didn’t need to think about it because, well, the Rangers had Lundqvist.
But as he progresses into his late 30s, he may get injured more often, so it would be nice to have someone who can come up and replace him for longer periods.
Also, the organization won’t get caught with its pants down, like when they had to use Mike Dunham in 2004 because Richter retired and Blackburn was out. That act of desperation caused the franchise to burn the No. 6 overall pick on Al Montoya, even though they had Lundqvist in the system. They didn’t want to take any chances.
It’s not always easy looking ahead, but Lundqvist is not going to play forever. Thankfully nothing serious happened tonight, but think about how you felt when he was down for those few minutes.
Use that as a wake-up call and get some depth in goal into the system.