If Henrik Lundqvist Is Anything But Great, Rangers Won’t Stand Any Chance Vs. Bruins

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

BOSTON (CBS) – Following an overtime loss in Game 1, all-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist sat despondent at his locker stall in the cramped visitors’ locker room at the TD Garden. He had stopped 45 of 48 shots, but he blamed himself for losing track of Brad Marchand on the game-winning goal. He said he made a mistake, that he should have kept his pads together but that he “wouldn’t lose sleep” over the split-second mental lapse.

After Game 2, Henrik might be in for some tossing and turning after experiencing some serious déjà vu.

Early in the third period, with the Bruins leading 3-2, Patrice Bergeron won the opening faceoff and shortly afterwards carried the puck on a 2-on-2 rush up the ice. With Marchand driving to the net, Bergeron carried the puck to the corner of the rink, drawing Michael Del Zotto with him before sending a pass to the front of the crease. Marchand, able to fight through Dan Girardi, got his tape on the puck and redirected it just under Lundqvist’s right pad.

The goal made the score 4-2 in favor of the Bruins with 19:34 left in the game, so it wasn’t quite the back-breaker that Thursday’s overtime goal was. Yet the goal appeared to crush New York’s hopes of clawing back, a thought completely eliminated 12 minutes later when Milan Lucic scored to give the Bruins a 5-2 lead. The rout was on, and while Lundqvist was a bit cryptic with his postgame comments, he seemed to confirm suspicions that the Rangers were taken off their game in the third period.

“We gave it to them,” Lundqvist said after the game, before repeating himself. “We gave it to them. I thought we played great, [but] I don’t think they had to work really hard to get a couple goals there. We just made it really tough on ourselves, so we have to correct a few things and go home and turn this around. It doesn’t matter the score — it’s a loss. Overtime or 5-2, doesn’t matter.”

The bottom line is that the final score doesn’t matter, but in a series predicated on defense and goaltending, the dynamic certainly shifts now. After an imperfect but respectable performance by Lundqvist in Game 1 (45 saves on 48 shots), the safe bet was for a monster performance in Game 2. Instead, he allowed five goals, the first time he’s done that in any game since March 9, 2011, and the first time he’s done it in a postseason game since April 26, 2009. His save percentage in the series now sits at .900, his goals-against average at 3.54. His regular-season numbers? A .926 save percentage and 2.05 GAA.

Despite the outcome, the Rangers won’t panic. Head coach John Tortorella said flatly, “I’m not evaluating our goaltending. I don’t need to evaluate Henrik. We know what Henrik is.”

And, really, the five goals don’t all fall on Lundqvist’s shoulders. Dan Girardi screened the goalie on Torey Krug’s shot, which opened the game’s scoring, and Girardi later kicked a Krug shot right to Gregory Campbell in front of the net for the second Bruins’ goal. Girardi again screened Lundqvist on Johnny Boychuk’s goal, the eventual game-winner, and he failed to break up the pass from Bergeron to Marchand early in the third. The icing on the cake for Girardi came when he made a decent play to drop to the ice to break up a pass, but ended up sliding out of the way and allowing Lucic to easily score the fifth goal. If anyone had a nightmare game, it was most certainly No. 5 in white, not No. 30.

Lundqvist also looked to be suffering through some sort of pain in the third period, and he later confirmed he had some sort of shoulder injury that would require a look from the team’s medical staff.

Excuses beyond his control were there for Lundqvist, and he certainly cashed in on the opportunity to make them, but he is not supposed to be just any goalie. The reigning Vezina winner and almost-unanimous best goalie in the sport should be able to rise to the challenge of playoff hockey and come through with saves no matter the circumstance — maybe not all of them, but at least one of them. That’s what it takes to get through the postseason and win a Cup for a team dependent on defense, and the last two Conn Smythe winners are proof of that.

For the last two games in Boston, dozens of reporters, microphones and cameras crowded around Lundqvist’s locker stall, because he is the superstar, and he is the “king.” His hat with the number 30 inside a crown, which he wore after the 5-2 loss, was there to remind everyone of that.

But one more game from Lundqvist where the king plays like just another goalie, and this series is going to be a lot shorter than most everyone anticipated.

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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