Former NHL goalies break down Lundqvist's struggles

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Jim Cerny
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It’s been a disappointing season for Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. (Jared Silber/Getty Images)
It’s been a disappointing season for Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. (Jared Silber/Getty Images)

Never in his 12-year career has Henrik Lundqvist been so scrutinized, and his game more analyzed, than this season.

A bloated 2.73 goals-against average and career-low .907 save percentage have more than offset the fact Lundqvist already surpassed 20 wins for the 12th consecutive season, a league record to begin a career, and became the NHL’s all-time leader in victories by a European goaltender, passing Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek.

Though he surrendered just six goals over his last four starts heading into the All-Star break, it is still worth taking a close look at Lundqvist to see where he’s been this season and where he’s headed now that the sprint to the finish line officially begins.

Deconstructing the 34-year-old’s game are three respected hockey analysts, each of whom is a former goaltending partner of Lundqvist’s in New York.

In their own words are Kevin Weekes, Martin Biron and Steve Valiquette.

Just the Facts

Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t looked like his cool, calm self too often this season. (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t looked like his cool, calm self too often this season. (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Weekes: There haven’t been many “slumps” in his career. A couple of dips over the years, but Henrik doesn’t know what struggling is, and he doesn’t know how to struggle. For us mere mortals, we understand struggles. We’ve had more yo-yos, more ups and downs, but his expectations for himself and from others are so much higher.

Biron: There were some really big holes technically in his game at times this year. When Hank is on top of his game and things are rolling along, it’s very structured: A to B, B to C, and so on with his movements. That hasn’t been the case consistently enough.

Valiquette: Henrik has overcompensated a lot this year, hasn’t looked comfortable, and as a result, in a lot of cases, the (defense) and forwards are trying to overcompensate, as well. So, what happens? The team gives up big plays, wide-open back-door goals, because everyone, including the goalie, is trying to do too much.

Biron: There were times Henrik was doing two-pad stacks this year! That’s not him. I don’t remember him doing two-pad stacks before!

Weekes: If you have someone as great as him that is struggling, that is a thing, it’s a story. It takes on a life of its own

Technical Fouls

Henrik Lundqvist has been allowing more clear-sighted goals than usual this season. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Henrik Lundqvist has been allowing more clear-sighted goals than usual this season. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Valiquette: I think the best way to judge a goalie is by their save percentage on shots they can see. This year, if there’s been any inconsistency in Henrik’s game, it’s been stopping the clear-sighted shot. He has been beaten clean more than ever before.

Weekes: The key for him is to be more patient, not depending on what others do, but being convicted to his reads, his positioning. When he’s been at his best this year, all those things have been intact.

Valiquette: I have kept that stat, goals allowed on clear-sighted shots, on Henrik for years. Last season he was giving up one (goal) on every 41 clear-sighted shots, a ratio that, in my mind, should have earned him a Vezina (Trophy) nomination. This year it’s one in every 23 (heading into earlier in the week). To me, that’s the big difference in his game.

Biron: He’s been a little overactive in his movements and reads, because he’s been fighting it. He’s been trying to do everything too fast. But I would say, too, that a lot of times getting beat on clean shots is more of a mental thing than technical.

The Mental Side

Henrik Lundqvist has fought a lot of battles with the Rangers over the years. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Henrik Lundqvist has fought a lot of battles with the Rangers over the years. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Weekes: He’s played a lot of hockey, under a lot of pressure and expectations in New York at The Garden, and with Team Sweden. Just based on the mental energy and emotional energy, that’s a lot of weight on his shoulders.

Biron: He’s got a ton of miles on his career, but he still works extremely hard, is in incredible shape, and the mental part of his game usually is one of his greatest strengths.

Weekes: He’s not a happy go lucky personality type. He’s more of a teeth gnashing type, and that takes a toll over time.

What’s Next?

Henrik Lundqvist surrendered just six goals over his last four starts heading into the All-Star break. (Jared Silber/Getty Images)
Henrik Lundqvist surrendered just six goals over his last four starts heading into the All-Star break. (Jared Silber/Getty Images)

Weekes: I definitely believe in his ability to still play at a sustained high level, even at age 34 (Lundqvist turns 35 March 2). I believe he can take the Rangers on another long run (this spring).

Biron: He’s such a fierce competitor that he’s capable of overcoming technical deficiencies in his game. Then all of a sudden, he gets some wins, his confidence is back, his game rounds into top shape, everything calms down, and he goes on a typical Henrik run. That’s what I see from him right now.

Valiquette: I have such a biased opinion because I played with him. Everyone understands his greatness, but when you play with him, you see he’s even better. I’m very sure Henrik is not even close to being done. I’ve never met anybody in my life as competitive as this guy. He’ll pull out of this, and you’re starting to see that already.