Alain Vigneault officially announced that rookie goaltender Cam Talbot will make his second straight start on Monday (tonight) vs. the Winnipeg Jets. Henrik Lundqvist must be battling an injury, right? Wrong. Talbot has been playing so well as of late that Vigneault has given the 26-year old rookie the nod. Could there be a NYR goaltender controversy for the first time in nearly ten years?
Highly doubtful. Alain Vigneault reiterated on Monday morning that Henrik Lundqvist remains the Rangers’ number one starter. He did say that Talbot is “the best option tonight” based on the way he has been playing. Talbot let up two goals on 37 shots vs. the Canucks on Saturday and allowed the Rangers to play a risky-style throughout the game in their 5-2 win. It was Talbot’s first home game of the season, and improved his numbers to 6-1 with a 1.49 GAA and a .944 save percentage. To put it into perspective, Talbot would be leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage if he had a few more games played and were eligible.
There are plenty of Rangers fans wondering what is wrong with Henrik Lundqvist. Absolutely nothing. Sure, along with every other player in a Rangers jersey, Lundqvist’s opening 9-game road trip was subpar. But when we look at Lundqvist’s stat-line for November, we see a 2.27 GAA and a .924 save percentage. If we compare that to Talbot’s nearly unheard of hot start, of course Lundqvist looks like he is struggling. But every other goaltender in the world would consider a 2.27 GAA and .924 save percentage a great year. Our expectations of Hank are just so high, that when he does not put up league-best numbers, we think he is struggling.
In addition to that, Alain Vigneault has been vehement in wanting to rest Lundqvist this season with the Olympics in mind. Hank will certainly start every game for Sweden, and keeping him fresh for the Rangers’ playoff push and into the playoffs will be key. As Rangers reporter John Giannone tweeted, “There is no NYR “controversy.” A solid rookie is starting a 2nd straight gm. In an Olympic year. In stretch of 5 games in 8+ days. The end.” The end.
As previously mentioned, the Rangers beat the Canucks 5-2 on Saturday, spoiling Tortorella’s return to the Garden. Chris Kreider played his best game all season, netting a hat trick. When Kreider gets going and looks confident, his play takes off. He claimed that Tortorella’s return did not give him extra motivation, which I do not buy for a second. Rangers’ fans serenaded the Canucks’ coach with chants of “Tor-to-rel-la”, which had to enrage Torts. He would have loved nothing more than to come to MSG and take it to the Blueshirts, but the exact opposite happened.
It really is time for the Rangers to get over the .500 mark. At 14-13, they continue to hover at mediocrity. Before long, the halfway point of the season will be here, and the Rangers will be kicking themselves if they cannot separate themselves from a .500 record. After Thursday’s game in Buffalo, the Rangers play nine straight games at home. With the rest of the division picking up their play (Devils, Flyers, Hurricanes all within three points of the Rangers), the Rangers must respond and pick up their play as well.