It is not hard to get lost in the circus that is the New York Rangers. After all, the only thing that hockey analysts seem to associate with the Rangers these days is Sean Avery. Of course John Tortorella seems to be at the center of attention as well. And the deadline acquisitions also get some much deserved attention. This is no surprise considering the team followed a 3-6-3 February with a 8-4-1 March, with much of the credit going to the new coach and players. But what has been forgotten is the only player that has consistently been the best Blueshirt during the past four years.
One would think that a shutout of the Atlantic Division leader would create some attention for the goaltender. Especially considering that it was the 20th of his career and that the man standing on the opposite side of the ice is 81 shutouts ahead of him. But all the New York papers could talk about was Sean Avery. What about King Henrik, the reason why the Rangers are in the playoff hunt right now, despite being the 3rd lowest scoring team in the NHL while Tom Renney was behind the bench?
Henrik Lundqvist is probably having the worst statistical season of his career. His GAA is over 2.4 for the first time, 2.46 to be exact, and his save percentage is below his career average of .916 by one point. But this is despite the fact that he had the worst Rangers team in front of him since the lockout, which makes the slight drop in performance very understandable. What's more is that he somehow kept the team afloat at .500 during the months of November, December and January before finally giving way in February. But with an improved team in March he led the Rangers to more wins than losses for the first time since October. Turns out that Lundqvist's worst statistical season may be his best as far as his contribution to the team goes. And people would realize that if they weren't busy analyzing every facial expression made by #16.
Recently Lundqvist has been less consistent than usual. He has surrendered 3 goals a lot more often than he has in the past, and a few key games have been lost via blown leads. That was fine. No goaltender is going to be perfect night in and night out. It was acceptable. But not anymore.
It is crunch time. When you have five games left, are only two points ahead of ninth place and are playing five out of five games against playoff teams, there is no room for error. None. If the Florida Panthers run the table, the Rangers will have to do so as well. And the ability to do that doesn't come down for how well Tortorella coaches, how well Avery agitates or how well the top forwards score. It comes down to the Man Between The Pipes. The man the Rangers have turned to in their time of need many a time. The man who has delivered when everyone else did and especially when nobody did. It comes down to the Forgotten Hero.