(Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made his last starting appearance on March 1 in a 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. He relieved Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin in the Rangers’ 6-4 loss to the Devils at the Garden on March 7.
Ever since then, playing time came few and far between for this once-proud forgotten Ranger.
The Rangers took off when Alexandar Georgiev and Shesterkin supplanted Lundqvist in the nets. Those two goaltenders, especially Georgiev, played a role in the Rangers being within striking distance of a playoff spot by winning games before the Covid-19 pandemic suspended the season in March.
The NHL rewarded the Rangers’ gutsy effort in February and March by awarding them a playoff spot when the league resumes next month. The regular season won’t resume, so rather than penalize the team because of a pandemic, they get a participation trophy of sorts by making the playoffs.
Logic says to ride with the hot goalie in Georgiev. But the Rangers should defy conventional wisdom and start Lundqvist in the playoffs. It’s been months now since any goaltender played, so no one knows what to expect from any of them. But in a situation like this, an experienced goaltender can lead a team since he knows what to expect and how to prepare.
Sorry, but playoffs and starting in the playoffs after a long layoff is a whole new territory for Georgiev to handle. It isn’t fair for a young goaltender to go through it.
Lundqvist knows how to prepare and be ready to go in a situation like this. His playoff experience serves well for the Rangers. His work ethic and his ability to be in great shape stands out year in and year out. He yearns to get back out there and win games to show he still has it. He earned the right to start in the playoffs for what he has done for the Rangers.
The Rangers should be in the business of winning playoff games, Experimenting Georgiev or Shesterkin is not the way to go in a league where any team has a shot to win the Stanley Cup due to a long layoff. Yes, it’s not fair for either of them since they did not do anything to lose it, but it’s been months since they played, and no one knows what either can do. Why risk it?
In all probability, Lundqvist’s days as a Ranger will be over after this season. He has no future here. He knows it after watching his understudies perform well this year. At 38 years old, the Rangers would seek to go in another direction with this team being on a youth movement.
For what Lundqvist accomplished for this franchise, he earned the right to finish his Ranger career by starting in some playoff games. He deserves one last shot of glory for a team he grew up with. He yearns to win a Stanley Cup as a Ranger after coming up short so many times. He should get to write his final chapter as a Ranger.
Look, no one criticized Lundqvist as much as I have. He should have played better in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, which he blew leads in Games 1, 2 and 4. He came up lame against the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals. He played atrociously in the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Guess what? Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy played awful in playoff games, but they managed to have Stanley Cup championships on their resume. Lundqvist can get it done, too.
As well as the Rangers played, does anyone think teams are scared of them with Georgiev or Shesterkin in the pipes? I don’t think so. Of course, teams won’t say a word because well hockey players and coaches say nothing.
Lundqvist gives the Rangers a better chance to win the Stanley Cup than their other two goaltenders. Experience matters so much come playoff time, and Lundqvist knows how to be even-keeled in the playoffs. Nothing will faze him.
Maybe Georgiev or Shesterkin will be great one day. But now is not the time to try it.
The Rangers owe it to the players to start the best goaltender out of that group.
In this case, the best is who knows what to do in the second season, not one with inexperience.
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