Toward the end of the 2010-11 season, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella said that Henrik Lundqvist was playing as well as he had at any point in his career, and that he could play at an even higher level.
While there is always room to improve, it was hard to imagine Lundqvist doing more than what he was doing in his first six seasons in New York, which was carry the team on his shoulders.
However, Lundqvist has proven throughout the 2011-12 season that he can in fact play at a higher level, and his statistics have reflected it.
After last night's 30-save performance in a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, Lundqvist has 13 wins (ninth in the NHL), a 2.03 goals against average (sixth in the NHL), and a .934 save percentage (fourth in the NHL).
While these statistics are all impressive, the one statistic not listed above that stands out is games played.
Lundqvist has played in 24 out of the Rangers' 31 games this season, and while playing in 77 percent of a team's games is above average for an NHL goalie, it is a far cry from the workload Lundqvist has become accustomed to throughout his career.
The reason for this is because the Rangers backup goaltender, Martin Biron, has done an outstanding job when called upon this season.
In his seven starts, Biron has won six of them, posting a goals against average below two, and an identical save percentage as Lundqvist.
Over the last five seasons, Lundqvist has played an average of 70.6 games per season.
Last season, the signing of Biron was supposed to help lighten Lundqvist's workload. However, after Biron suffered a broken collarbone in late February, that plan was derailed as Lundqvist started the last 26 games of the season, getting the Rangers into the playoffs on the last day of the season.
This season, the original plan is working as it was supposed to, and Lundqvist is responding with an outstanding season.
The ultimate payoff for missing extra games throughout the six-month regular season will be carrying the Rangers come springtime.
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