Henrik Lundqvist named NHL's third star of the week
By their nature, "best-of" lists are fleeting. There's another one coming soon, right behind it.
But recognition is recognition, and for the NHL to name Henrik Lundqvist the league's third star of the week Monday is an indication of accomplishment.
Consider: In 15 weeks, this is the first time a Ranger has been honored. And last season, only Lundqvist (third star, April 8) and Brad Richards (second star, April 22) made the cut in 14 weeks.
It's not as if goalies are ignored. Twelve already had been on the lists this season, including several backups, Carter Hutton (Nashville) and Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens (Los Angeles). Last season, backups Viktor Fasth (Anaheim) and Richard Bachman (then with Dallas) were honored.
To be fair, Lundqvist has not earned the weekly accolade until now. He started all four Rangers games last week, going 3-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and a splendid .943 save percentage.
That's immensely more indicative of Lundqvist's play during eight years as a Ranger than this season's numbers, which were 12-16-2, 2.78 and .905 before last week.
Lundqvist relies on playing deep in the crease, tracking pucks, being patient and reacting. To explain his troubles, he has said he was anticipating where the puck would go rather than waiting, and when a goal was scored, he tried to compensate and overreacted, which changed his rhythm.
"When you win a couple of games," he said, "you gain some confidence; when you have more confidence, you're more patient, and when you're more patient, you make more saves. One thing leads to another. A few weeks back, I tried to correct that in practice and really watch a lot of tape that helped me in the past, so I'm happy with the way things are going right now. I still have some work to do."
Against Tampa Bay at home Tuesday night, Lundqvist will start his fifth straight game for the Rangers (24-20-3), likely against the Lightning's Ben Bishop, who came off injured reserve Monday. Lundqvist has been in the net twice against the Lightning (27-14-4): a 5-0 loss here on Nov. 25 and a 4-3 win in Florida on Dec. 29.
"Hank is such a competitor," said coach Alain Vigneault, who will deploy the same lineup in search of a fourth straight win. "Since Day 1, he's been working real hard on his game to get to the level he's used to and what he's gotten everyone used to. He was a little bit off, but right now, he's back on track. He's making the key saves at the right time that are permitting us to stay in games, come back in games and win games."