After getting off to a slow start to a season delayed by a lengthy work stoppage, Henrik Lundqvist has returned to Vezina Trophy form, and that is great news for the New York Rangers and their playoff hopes.
During the past few weeks, the most common phrase uttered by veteran Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen has been, "save by Lundqvist!"
That phrase has often been repeated in succession because Lundqvist has had to shoulder the full load in many games this season.
Rosen is known for his emphatic delivery as the play-by-play voice of the Rangers, but his level of enthusiasm has been through the roof given how well Lundqvist has been for the Broadway Blueshirts this season, especially over the past few weeks.
Since the 2004-05 lockout, Lundqvist has been one of the winningest goaltenders in the league with 271 victories to date, and the only goaltender in league history to record seven consecutive 30-win seasons at the start of his career.
Inside the Numbers for Lundqvist in 2013
Unlike last season, Lundqvist isn't among the top three for major goaltending statistics this year, but he has been pretty close and gaining ground quickly.
Here's a look at Lundqvist's numbers thus far and how he stacks up against starters who have played at least 20 games.
Lundqvist has improved his numbers to get back into the Vezina Trophy race, but his slow start to the season put him in a big hole. During the first three games Lundqvist allowed 10 goals and posted a 1-2-0 record.
Lundqvist is Heating Up
Despite the lackluster start, Lundqvist is now playing at an All-Star-caliber level, and that is reflected in his month-to-month statistics.
Lundqvist is a goaltender who usually starts 65 or more games a year, so he will pick up losses along the way, but what is important to focus on is how the month of January skews his stats. His GAA and save percentage numbers ever since January have been impressive.
Having a GAA between 1.79 and 2.05 is something that is very difficult to maintain, and Lundqvist has done that over the past three months.
Lundqvist also hasn't given up that many goals throughout the year; here is a breakdown of the number of goals has surrendered per game, and how many times he has done it.
|Goals Per Game||Frequency|
In 70 percent of the 36 games Lundqvist has played, he has allowed two goals or fewer, and that is a big reason why the Rangers surrender 2.24 goals per game, the fourth-fewest in the NHL.
Lockout Benefits Lundqvist For Playoffs
Historically, Lundqvist has been a workhorse goalie who likes to keep playing as it allows him to get in game shape both mentally and physically. Although this is a shortened season and goaltenders need their rest, Lundqvist is hitting his stride just at the right time to go on a long playoff run.
The Rangers' netminder is currently in his prime, and even though he is getting many back-to-back nods, he'll finish the year with just over 40 starts (a career low). The playoffs would be the equivalent of midseason for Lundqvist, and the Rangers will be in a position to play between four to 28 more games.
Doing the math, Lundqvist would be at his normal games limit, and at a point where he has played well throughout his career.
Although the Rangers are likely to finish anywhere from No. 6 to No. 8, based on how Lundqvist is playing, they won't be an easy out in the playoffs.
He is one of the hottest goaltenders in the league right now, and if the Rangers can pick up their offense they could go on a lengthy run.
When you factor in that the Rangers could be getting Marc Staal and Derek Dorsett back for the first round of the playoffs, they will be a 100 percent healthy team in the unlikely position of underdog.
None of this will matter if the Rangers fail to take care of business during the last few weeks of the season, but when you consider how Lundqvist has been playing, the Rangers' odds of missing the playoffs are slim. About 6.5 percent slim, according to SportsClubStats.
Lundqvist looked exceptionally sharp during the Rangers' 1-0 victory against the New York Islanders, and he finally notched his first shutout of the season.
As goes Lundqvist so go the Rangers, and based on his play of late they can go very far.