Friday, December 11, 2009

Six Rules to Save Henrik Lundqvist - before it's too late


Night after night, year after year, Henrik Lundqvist have been making saves. Saving shots, saving games, and (at least temporarily) saving our seasons. But now it's the Ranger's turn. We've got to step up and save Henrik Lundqvist - before we ruin him forever.
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It's no secret that the Ranger's fortunes start and end with their franchise goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. Ever since the talented Swede won the starting job on Broadway a few years back - he's given us everything he has - and has kept us in hockey games that we had no business being in. We don't have to look any further back than last Wednesday for evidence of that – Hank single-handedly delivered us a point against the Blackhawks, stopping 39 shots to get us to OT.
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Lundqvist has been everything we could have asked for all these years. But have the Rangers held up their end of the bargain? Have they taken proper care of their prized Thoroughbred?

No.
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If Hank's level of play has fallen over the last year, it is the fault of the New York Rangers. They are mishandling their goalie and the sad results are playing out in front of our eyes.
On Wednesday he turned in a vintage Lundqvist, super-human effort in a losing cause. It was the kind of game he is still capable of - but which we haven't seen in quite a while.
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But we can get The King back to the elite level again - if we just follow a few simple rules
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Rule 1: Rest him. Hank is one of the most over-worked goaltender over the past two seasons. He is a team player and will always go out there if asked. What the Rangers should do is protect their franchise player. Give the guy a night off once in a while. Sit him for 15 games a year. Never let him start on consecutive days. Forget this week's losing streak - protect your franchise.
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Rule 2: Get a quality backup. The career implosion of Steve Valiquette - he has now been pulled from two consecutive AHL starts - underscores the fact that really, he was never good enough. Steve had the ultimate failure as a backup this year – he was pulled from a Ranger start and Lundqvist – on a rare off day - had to skate out and take over.
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The Rangers need a backup like Washington's Varlamov: someone who you can put out there to provide a great change of pace, fire up the team, and give you a real chance of winning. I think we should give Chad Johnson a chance to become that goalie. A good backup takes the pressure off your starter and will let Hank focus better – and even give him a little friendly competition.

Rule 3: Score some freaking goals. Hank's life doesn't have to be like this. If the Rangers could score some goals he could let up two goals and win easily – instead of losing. And it's not just wins and losses. If Henrik had a 2 or 3 goal lead once in a while – his life becomes more stress free. He won't burn out so quickly.
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Rule 4: Block Shots. Now – the Rangers have been doing a much better job of this lately. And Chris Drury has been a champ at this. But the other fellows have to pitch in. Every blocked shot is one less that Hank has to deal with.
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Rule 5: Stop the odd man rush. Again, this has been better lately – but for the first three quarters of our season the Rangers have let up an unacceptable level of odd man rushes – usually resulting in a player getting a free shot at Hank. That's how the Blackhawks beat us in OT. We've got to position better and hustle back on defense.
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Rule 6: Protect Him. Clear the crease. It may be old fashioned – but it works. Get those opposing players away from Hank. Too many nights he's been crowded, screened, bumped, or just plain run over. The Rangers need to retaliate when our goalie is knocked down. We've got a great Penalty Kill Unit – let's use our penalties for a purpose. Protect your franchise.
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So that's the recipe. If the Rangers can do all of those things – Henrik Lundqvist can be like a better version of Marty Brodeur – someone who can shine for this franchise for years to come. But if we keep on breaking all of those rules – The King will break down. We're seeing the unfortunate beginnings of that breakdown right before our eyes. Sather and Tortorella need to take action now to preserve the brightest star in the Ranger galaxy – before he burns himself out.

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