Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist carries Rangers while big-money scorers struggle with injuries

When Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury went down with injuries while word surfaced that Vaclav Prospal would miss time because of surgery, it was hard to argue against the prevailing wisdom that the New York Rangers were boned (to use a highfalutin scientific term). Especially since their true star – goalie Henrik Lundqvist – started a bit slow.

While the Rangers are flying under the radar a bit, the team is a beyond respectable 5-3 since their big ticket scorers went down with injuries. Their scrappy, competitive play might be a surprise to some, but the main reason they are keeping their heads above water shouldn’t. Lundqvist put together Vezina Trophy – perhaps Hart Trophy- caliber hockey in the six of the eight games he started since those guys went on the shelf.

A 4-2 record might not seem that amazing until you look at his impressive numbers.

(click to enlarge)

While you can see most of the details in that graphic, let me share some of the high points.

  • Allowing 12 goals in only six games is pretty impressive to begin with, but doing so when your team allows 34.7 shots per game makes it an outstanding number.
  • Lundqvist only had one game with a sub-90 save percentage, in a loss against the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • He hit 94 percent or better in four of those six games, including a shutout on the road against Toronto. In fact, his save percentage totals about 94.23 in this span.

With the Chicago Blackhawks winning a Cup with Antti Niemi and plenty of teams having recent success with previously unknown goalies, many people might question the need for a “marquee” or “franchise” netminder. Yet, if you look at the Rangers, they would be in enormous trouble without their stupendous Swedish stopper.

That’s because Lundqvist delivers when the Rangers need him the most.

Kassian suspended without pay, placed in Stage 2 of Substance Abuse Program

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.

The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.

According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”

Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:

The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two:

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier

Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, CSNPhilly.com notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The CSNPhilly.com quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.