New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has remained plenty busy in his 14th NHL season at 36 years old.
The eldest statesman on a rebuilding Rangers team, who is destined for a Hall-of-Fame plaque in Toronto, still remains their most valuable player even if this is looking like the worst team he’s ever played on.
Rangers management is stressing the infusion of youth in this rebuild as over half of the roster, 13 of 23 players to be exact, fall between the ages of 20 and 26. More are likely on the way as talented 20-year-old forward Lias Andersson, a fellow Swede, waits for his call-up to the NHL.
It resulted in the gutting of the organization’s core that helped provide 12 playoff appearances in a 13-year span from 2005-2017 as the likes of Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh was traded away. Rumors continue to swirl that Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes might not make it through the season as Rangers, either.
Naturally, with a bevy of young players, there have been growing pains as the Rangers finished up October with a 4-7-1 record. Those nine points earned have them rooted to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division where they are expected to stay for the remainder of the season.
They carry a minus-9 goal differential through 12 games, scoring just 32 times compared to allowing 41 goals, eighth-most in the NHL. Yet Lundqvist continues to perform at a high level, though the numbers are not up to his Vezina Trophy-caliber standards. After all, Lundqvist finished in the voting’s top-10 for the league’s award for its best goaltender in 10-straight years from 2005-2015.
Even with there being questions about whether he is on his last legs or not, first-year head coach David Quinn is not afraid to use him.
Lundqvist has started in 10 of the Rangers first 12 games, playing a whopping 606 minutes, which leads the NHL. Behind a defense that has left him out to dry on plenty of occasions, he still owns a respectable .917 save percentage and a 2.77 goals against average. His seven quality starts are tied for third best in the NHL, the latest coming on Tuesday night in a shootout win over the San Jose Sharks.
There are going to be more bad times than good this season, and maybe throughout the rest of Lundqvist’s Rangers career. However, he refuses to waive the no-trade clause that could see him dealt to a contender that would deliver him his first-ever Stanley Cup title. As long as he remains a Blueshirt, it’s become abundantly clear that Lundqvist will be the Rangers’ No. 1 man in goal until he’s finished.