Rangers’ biggest question: Can Lundqvist avoid a decline?
James O’Brien Aug 25, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Every now and then, we need to remind ourselves that Henrik Lundqvist is, you know, human.
Sure, he looks ageless, and his stats always seem to shine (even amid an up-and-down 2014-15 season).The New York Rangers have gone as far as the stellar Swede could take them for about a decade now, so some probably think his greatness is as inevitable as death and taxes.
The truth is that he’s not infallible, and at 33, you have to wonder if a decline is coming.
Granted, people have been pondering a possible drop-off basically from the moment that he signed that massive seven-year, $59.5 million extension in 2013. Blogger-turned-Carolina-Hurricanes-employee Eric Tulsky provided a great breakdown back then, yet even he seemed to struggle in forecasting Lundqvist’s future.
Blueshirt Banter said it well while giving Lundqvist a B+ grade for last season:
Father Time is undefeated World Champion. But based upon the above, I think we all need to quit our belly-aching about the imminent demise, or decline of Henrik Lundqvist. He’s got some more elite years hiding in that glorious head of hair.
Goalies are a tough nut to crack as far as predictions are concerned, yet that’s what has made Lundqvist’s dominance so daunting: he seems like the one guy you can count on to be great (if not elite). Year in and year out, he gets it done.
The problem is that the Ranger still lean on him too much. With all of their spending and the 2015 Presidents’ Trophy win, it might seem like he’s asked to do less, yet Lundqvist and Cam Talbot camouflaged a defense that was shaky at times last season.
With Talbot gone and Antti Raanta in his place, it’s possible that the Rangers are that much more reliant on Lundqvist. What happens if he suffers another slow start and/or injuries? What happens if his reflexes begin to dull?
Much like the question of decline, the hypothetical scenario of Lundqvist falling off is probably familiar to Rangers fans (who are seasoned at learning that the answer has always been “Nope, he’s still great”).
What happens if the answer is “yes” in 2015-16?