As the Rangers prepare for their Sunday evening match-up with the Calgary Flames, one has to wonder if the team has fully put Thursday night’s disaster out of their minds.
There is no question it will be hard to completely forget the 6-2 shellacking by the Canadiens in Montreal, but if the Rangers want to start winning consistently, they’ll need to.
It seems lately that the Blue-shirts have had problems either in the second game of back-to-backs or the second game of home-and-homes. Before the Rangers followed up a 3-2 win over the Penguins with their awful showing in Montreal, they followed a 4-3 win over the Panthers in Florida by getting blanked 4-0 by the same team at home.
The Rangers have proven they are a good team, but to be an elite one, they must be able to play consistent hockey. So far, they’ve yet to show that.
One of the reasons for this could be Head Coach Tom Renney’s desire to consistently put Henrik Lundqvist in net. It’s hard to blame him because “The King” has been one of the best in the business this season. However, all good goalies become fatigued over time, and it’s starting to show in Lundqvist.
While games are important all season long, these games, especially against non-divisional opponents (like Florida and Montreal), are not as critical.
It’s time for Renney to seriously consider using Steve Valiquette more often. He proved earlier in the year he could be successful when he beat Philly and Toronto in the span of seven days. After that, he didn’t play until November 1st. Then, he didn’t start again until November 22nd. This inconsistency is not only going to burn out Lundqvist, but keep Valiquette from staying fresh.
After two days of rest, it appears obvious “The King” will be back in net at the Garden on Sunday. However, what about on Saturday when the Rangers host Carolina in the second game of a back-to-back? Or the following Wednesday when the Rangers have back-to-backs out in Anaheim and LA?
If Renney wants to protect his top-flight goaltender, a few starts by Steve Valiquette would certainly help.