Everything Else

There can be little doubt that Henrik Lundqvist is going to go down as this generation’s finest goalie. He really doesn’t need any more to his Hall of Fame claims then pointing to Dan Girardi and saying, “I had to clean up after this useless dope for years and our team kept making the playoffs thanks to it.” That’s a first-ballot resume right there.

In the past 10 years, of all goalies to have played 400 games or more, only Tuukka Rask has a better save-percentage than Hank. If you lower it to 300 games over the past 10 years, the list expands to Tim Thomas, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider, and Sergei Bobrovsky. But none of those guys have come anywhere near Lundqvist’s 634 games. Throw out the last two years and Hank would be carrying a .921 SV% over that time.

But it’s the last two years that are the worry for Rangers fans, and the organization itself. Two years ago, Hank’s SV% overall dipped to .910, which isn’t even league-average. This year it’s .905 so far, which just straight up sucks. More worrying is that Lundqvist’s even-strength save-percentages have fallen off a cliff. For the past seven years leading up to ’16-’17, Hank never had an even-strength save-percentage under .928, which is just about unconscious. Last year that dropped to .918, and this year it’s .908 so far, which again, straight up sucks.

Hank turns 36 later this year, and the numbers for goalies that old the past ten years aren’t going to inspire confidence in the blue-clad, pepperoni-smelling masses on Broadway. The average SV% of goalies who played over 40 games past the age of 35 is .907. There are some outliers here, of course. Tim Thomas won a Vezina at 36, but he didn’t have anywhere near the NHL miles that Hank does now. Craig Anderson was awfully good last year at 35, but he only played half a season. Roberto Luongo turned in above-average seasons at 35 and 36, and certainly he’s probably the best comp to Lundqvist. But Bob has also seen it all fall apart on him the past season and this quarter of one. Martin Brodeur was able to be league-average in his late-30s, but league-average isn’t going to save this Rangers outfit.

Which leaves the Rangers in something of a pickle. Hank is signed for three more years at $8.5 million. If the team decided he can do no more than split starts, and that’s hardly a ridiculous conclusion at this point, there isn’t a lot of room to bring in another. A team can’t spend $11 or $12 million on just two goalies. Which means the Rangers are going to have to develop one or keep shuffling in rehab projects, like they’ve done with Antti Raanta before and are attempting to do with Ondrej Pavelec now.

There might be some hope on that front. The Rangers have a prospect they’re pretty keen on. One is Igor Shestyorkin, who put up a .940 in the KHL last and is on track to do so again. To be fair, he’s also playing behind the powerhouse St. Petersburg there, but hey. .940 is .940. But they’d have to get him over here and get him acclimated to the North American rink and game. He’s only 21, so there’s time on his side, but it might not be on the Rangers’.

Either way, it would be truly shitty to watch Hank rot his way out of the end of his career. He was too good behind not good enough Rangers teams to get all that he deserved. He’s won one Vezina, which seems an utter crime. He’s only been to one Final, which also doesn’t seem fair. And he’s unlikely to add to either.

Game #19 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups

Everything Else

Beth Boyle Machlan is a contributor at BlueShirtBanter.com. You can follow her on Twitter @BethMachlan.

The Rangers had an awful start to the season, but have now won six in a row. What’s been the change?

The change? Moving Pavel Buchnevich from the 4th line to the 1st, for one. Alain Vigneault’s distrust of the young Russian has been inexplicable from the start, and culminated in benching him for Tanner Glass in last year’s playoffs. Since moving to the 1st line, Buchnevich has been on fire, and has already outscored his previous season. Also, the power play, which has been a black hole for the Rangers for years, has come to life with the combination of Kevin Shattenkirk, Mika Zibanejad, and the aforementioned BUCH. And Rick Nash, who I still consider the Unluckiest Man in Hockey for how often he shoots/makes things happen vs. how often he scores, has finally heated up as well.

Is Henrik Lundqvist done?
Lundqvist isn’t done. Lundqvist is 35 and has faced more high-danger shots than any other tender in the NHL. He’s been shot full of holes for three seasons now, and I’m guessing his knees and body reflect that. But he’s always been a slow starter, and he’s come on as fierce as ever in the last six games, and that save percentage is creeping up.
Mika Zibanejad is averaging a point-per-game after a somewhat disappointing debut season on Broadway last year. We see the three shots per game, what’s been the difference in his game so far?
Alain Vigneault likes to tinker with his lines, and I think Zibanejad’s game suffered last year as a result. (The broken leg didn’t help.) This year, he’s healthy and he’s playing with monsters, Buchnevich and Kreider, (KZB) who had a crazy chemistry even in 2016 preseason, but then never played together again. He’s been a beast on the power play, on a PP1 team that right now looks like it could score blindfolded.
Kevin Shattenkirk was the big offseason signing. How has he settled in?
Shattenkirk had a great start, then fell off a bit as AV played with his pairings (and defensive deployment continues to be the NYR’s Achilles heel — don’t get me started). But he seems to have found his groove, turned the PP around, and is playing his game regardless of who he’s paired with. He generates offense like crazy; NYR zone exits used to be embarrassing, but I find myself not even thinking about that anymore, especially when 22 is out there. But the dream pair of Shatty and McDonagh is history already, and he’s with Nick Holden. Ask AV.
The Rangers pulled themselves out of their initial hole, but some of their analytics are still not very impressive and this is a weird roster. Where are they headed this year?
Where are they headed? Three weeks ago, I would have said the basement. But if Lundqvist holds up, the Cup. You heard me. Because No Cup for Lundqvist is a world I refuse to live in. (We’re going to get Beth the help she needs. Don’t worry. -ED)
Everything Else

We could have written the same preview for the New  York Rangers for at least the last three years, probably the last five, maybe the last ten. They’ll get more TV and press time due to their locale and Original Six status, but this is the same collection of small, quick, faceless forwards who don’t quite do enough in front of a top-heavy blue line that’s slightly better than it was but the bottom sucks so hard so who cares and all in front of an aging Henrik Lundqvist who will remain handsome but not able to bring this team through. The most interesting thing about the Rangers was that run-on sentence I just produced. And we do this every year. One day, maybe the Rangers will have a center. I’m just sure I’ll be incontinent by the time it happens.

New York Rangers

’16-’17 Record: 48-28-6  102 points (4th in Metro, lost to Ottawa in 2nd round after beating Montreal)

Team Stats 5v5: 47.9 CF% (25th)  48.6 SF% (24th)  48.4 SCF% (23rd) 8.8 SH% (4th)  .923 SV% (18th)

Special Teams: 20.2 PP% (11th)  79.8 PK% (18th)

Everything Else

The West kicks off tonight, so let’s get the previews done before we settle in for what really is shaping up as a pretty intriguing second round (except for Sens-Rangers, and that has Erik Karlsson).

HOLY FUCKING SHIT CAPITALS-PENGUINS!!!

Look, any hockey fan worth his or her salt has known this was going to happen in the second round and that it’s essentially the Stanley Cup Final. Barring some injury weirdness or Henrik Lundqvist going Fantastic Four in net or something equally unpredictable, either of these teams is going to annihilate the Rangers or Senators. These are the two best teams in the NHL by some distance. This is the Steamboat-Macho Man to the Final’s Hogan-Andre The Giant. I doubt we’ll remember the Final as much as we’ll remember what might happen here. Instead of rolling our eyes at the same matchup for the second year in a row and our exhaustion of the NHL trying to force this down our throats for years before both teams were ready to provide classic series years in a row, we should just be anxious to watch the best the sport is going to offer.

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN (US), WGN-AM 720
Buggin Out: Blueshirt Banter

While this is supposed to a premiere matchup on the league’s calendar as far as regular season games in December go, and on paper it still is with one conference leader hosting the 2nd best of the other on a weekend night, the actual composition of the rosters on both sides still lacks the punch that it should have, no matter how many times the words “potential matchup in June” are uttered during the broadcast.

Everything Else

A few years ago, 2013 to be exact, those of us who pay attention to possession numbers couldn’t wait to tell Toronto Maple Leafs fans, and their coach really, that their record was something of a mirage. The small sample size of that particular schedule and some excellent play from James Reimer had masked what really wasn’t a very good team, and their Corsi number showed it. The counter that came from the organization itself and a good portion of their fanbase was that they quality of shots they gave up and that they engineered made up the difference. We all laughed and laughed at this notion, even though one day someone was going to actually do that.

Maybe it’s this year’s Rangers?

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler vs.Night ranger

FACEOFF: 7pm Central

TV/RADIO: NBCSN, WGN Radio

CBGB Refugees: Scotty Hockey, The Hockey Rodent, Blue Shirt Banter

Rangers Stats

Rangers War On Ice

Only seems like six years ago that the Rangers were in town for the reverse fixture on this on Banner Raising night, where it became obvious to everyone that Trevor Daley was not going to work out here as the Rangers walked out 3-2 winners (you probably were watching Jake Arrieta get in up to the elbow against the Pirates. I know I was). The Hawks finally wrap up the season series with their Original 6 brethren on Broadway tonight. They’ll find a weird squad when they get there.

Everything Else

RangerSmith vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Sam Rosen’s Podiatrist: Blueshirt Banter

They told everyone the entire back half of the summer that they were only about the business of hockey. That getting back on the ice was the most important thing, and once they were able to do that, not much else mattered. And as criminal justice proceedings have dragged on and been obfuscated, that’s exactly where the defending champion Blackhawks stand tonight, with their star forward who has still yet to be cleared of a sexual assault investigation in uniform with at very least the implicit support of the entire organization.

So during the the effusive and interminable ceremony wherein Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough, and whatever host take self congratulatory tone-deafedness to astonishing new heights, remember that every ass in a seat, every applauding set of hands, is exactly what they banked on happening during this catastrophic off-season. Winning at sports is always a better brand strategy than being under investigation for sexual assault. And their cynical bet will be proved 110% correct when Patrick Kane receives thunderous applause all night long.

Everything Else

Editor’s Note: This ran in last night’s print edition.

Now in year seven of the Joel Quenneville era of Blackhawks Renaissance, the Hawks actually find themselves in slightly uncharted territory. Not only is this the first time that they have been past the first round for three straight years in the post-expansion era, but the Hawks are trying to eliminate the same team three straight years for the first time ever, with their most recent opportunity having been thwarted by  Alex Burrows and Chris Campoli.

Everything Else

oldschool at RangerSmith

Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN (US), WGN-AM 720
Without MSG I Am Nothing: Blueshirt Banter, Scotty Hockey

Now that the international nightmare known as the Sochi Olympics is finally over, the NHL can get back to business as usual. With 22 games left, the Hawks will start their final quarter of the season tonight in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.