The Rangers have been leaning heavily on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist since he entered the league in 2005. Lundqvist is no stranger to playing 60-plus games per season, but don’t be surprised if that doesn’t happen this year.
If head coach Alain Vigneault has his way, Lundqvist will play a lot less games in 2016-17. Some Ranger fans might not be happy to hear that, but it makes sense.
First, Lundqvist is 34 years old and it’ll probably take more days off to keep him fresh for a playoff run.
Secondly, every team will have a bye week at some point this season, which means that the regular season schedule will be condensed. Teams will be playing more two games in two nights or three games in four nights and that’s not easy on anyone, especially veterans.
Of course, it won’t only be up to Vingeault. Lundqvist will also have a say in the amount of work he’ll face this season.
Over the last 10 years, he’s played 62 games or more eight times. In 2014-15, the Swedish netminder suffered a significant injury and the Rangers had to rely on Cam Talbot to hold down the fort for a while. During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he played “just” 43 of 48 games.
Last year, Lundqvist played 65 games and at the end of the season, his numbers dipped quite a bit.
Over the last 12 games of the regular season, Lundqvist allowed three goals or more eight times and allowed four goals in four of those 12 contests.
It’s also important to remember that the Rangers were a bit of a mess heading into the postseason, so Lundqvist’s numbers dipping aren’t just his fault. Still, if Vigneault’s planning on playing his starting goalie less, there’s a reason for that.
It’ll be easier said than done if the Rangers are battling for their playoff lives.
We’ll see if the coach gets his way.