In the span of three days, Henrik Lundqvist played in two games against National Hockey League franchises based in Pennsylvania.
He used one word to link his performances.
“Awareness,” Lundqvist told reporters in Philadelphia on Black Friday after he made 40 saves in the Rangers’ nationally televised 3-2 win over the Flyers.
The game followed a 6-1 loss to the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins last Wednesday night at the Garden where Lundqvist was pulled after allowing four goals on 17 shots in a period-and-a-half.
“The thing I kind of lacked in the second period against Pittsburgh I feel like I tried to be aware of [the Flyers] all the time,” Lundqvist said. “They move the puck really well, especially the top line. It was a good game for us, good game for me. We really worked through it and battled. They kept coming and I think the key for us was to play a smart game. They’re pretty fast in their transition game, especially in the second there. We lost the puck a couple of times on the blue line and they kept coming. I think for us, too, we didn’t take that many penalties. Going into the game, we didn’t have a good power play so we played a smart road game. It’s nice to get the win after a tough loss.”
Following the win in Philadelphia, Lundqvist has a 10-6-0-1 record in 17 games with a .915 save percentage, 2.43 goals against average and one shutout in 939:13
By comparison, he compiled 35-21-0-7 record in 65 games along with a 2.48 GAA, .920 save percentage, four shutouts in 3,773 last season.
Unlike 2015-16, Lundqvist hadn’t been called on to routinely steal games until Friday. That has been due in part to an offensive attack whose 3.86 goals per game average leads the league. The NHL average for goals scored per game is 2.63.
Still, it’s a comfort for Alain Vigneault and the Rangers that Lundqvist can win games when needed.
“[Henrik] did what [he’s] supposed to do: Make some big saves,” Vigneault said after the win over the Flyers. “That’s why we we [have] him.”
Jack Capuano needed all of 13 words to summarize the 2016-17 New York Islanders season:
“It’s just frustrating,” Capuano told reporters in San Jose after the Islanders’ 3-2 loss to the Sharks on Black Friday. “For whatever reason right now, hockey gods aren’t with us.”
As of this writing, the Islanders enter this week with a league-worst 6-10-4 record, as is their 1-6-1 road record. Their 16 points are tied with rebuilding Arizona for fewest in the league.
For a team coming off its first playoff series win since 1992-93, the early portion of the season has been nothing less than a disaster. The Islanders would have to need to win either 40 or 44 of their final 62 remaining games to equal the point total of last year’s two Eastern Conference Wild Card teams. The Islanders’ 100 points last season earned the first Wild Card slot, while Philadelphia won the other berth.
If that task isn’t arduous enough, the Islanders will need to pass either eight or nine teams to earn the first or second Wild Card position.
''You just keep going, “ John Tavares told the Associated Press. “Keep working. You find your way out of it. Obviously we don't want to be in the spot that we're in, but we're not going to quit. We just got to stay positive and stay together. ''
The question is how does a group that came into the season with aspirations for competing for the franchise’s first Cup since 1983 not succumb to frustration?
The Islanders’ -14 goal differential is tied with Colorado, Buffalo and the Coyotes for third worst in the league.
With two games remaining this month—home games Monday against Calgary and Wednesday against Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh—the Islanders are 2-5-4 in November and have been outscored by an aggregate 38-22.
''I have not found the combinations to give us some offense,'' Capuano said after the Islanders’ 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 14 at Barclays Center. ''It's on me to find guys to play with certain guys. Our guys are well prepared for games. We have to be able to find some offense.''
They just may not be as seismic as initially believed.
According to a report from Sportsnet.ca, the NHL and NHLPA released a list of 66 players who are protected from next June’s Expansion Draft. Twenty six of the league’s 30 teams have players whose contract language make them ineligible to be selected the Vegas Golden Knights.
The only teams who do not have any protected players are Calgary, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington.
Of the 66 players, eight are on the three New York City metropolitan-area teams: Devils winger Ryane Clowe; Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares of the Islanders; the Rangers foursome of Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash and Marc Staal.
Chicago’s has the most draft-ineligible players with eight, followed by Columbus and Pittsburgh with five draft-ineligible players each.
You can follow Metro New York NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.