When looking at the current state of the New York Rangers goaltending situation, it’s fair to ask whether or not they they should be concerned about injuries and poor play that are dogging their top two netminders. The answers to those questions, however, are not so easy.
On the one hand, the Rangers should be concerned about Henrik Lundqvist’s goals against average of 2.72 and his woeful .907 save percentage. His GAA is the highest it’s been during his tenure with the Rangers and almost half a goal higher than his career average. His save percentage is also easily the lowest it has been since joining the Rangers and a full two points below his career average. On the other hand, Lundqvist’s numbers still suggest, while he is no longer the best goalie in the league, he is still an elite option between the pipes, with numbers that have been comparable to last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Braden Holtby.
Granted, Lundqvist’s favorable comparison to Holtby was before his most recent slump, but not all of this has been his fault. The Rangers defense has not been great in front of him and that is something the team must correct moving forward. For now, history and statistics still suggest that Lundqvist is a better goaltender after the All-Star break and with his track record, it isn’t time to press the panic button just yet.
On the surface, the solution would seem to be simple, give Lundqvist some rest while Antti Raanta (10-4, 2.23 GAA, .923 save percentage) carries the load, but that won’t work, at least not right now, as Raanta is expected to miss up to ten days with a lower body injury. While the team hasn’t disclosed the exact nature of the injury, seeing as how goalies need to be nimble and use their legs quite a bit, chances that the injury could linger or get worse can’t be completely ruled out, giving some cause for concern in the immediate future.
While the Rangers and their fans might view this as an issue and it certainly flies in the face of the team’s plan for Lundqvist to get more rest during the season, the veteran net minder is looking forward to more playing time to work out the kinks and hopefully find a solution to a problem that has baffled him this season, giving up too many early goals in games.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, further complicating matters for the Rangers is the expansion draft that will be held at the end of the season to help fill the roster for the new NHL team in Las Vegas. Rules do not permit the Rangers to protect both Lundqvist and Raanta from being chosen, so they will need to decide which one to expose and it would certainly help if they could see both of them play more. While the smart money says Lundqvist will be protected while the team works behind the scenes to keep an unprotected Raanta, even if they lose Raanta and father time fully catches up to Lundqvist, the Rangers are loaded with goalie prospects to possibly promote moving forward.
This situation is escalated due to the New York media and one of the best fanbases in sports. In the end, while complicated, the Rangers situation in net (two capable goalies with several young prospects making the future look bright) is one that many NHL teams would love to have.