After signing his seven-year, $59.5 million extension on Wednesday morning, Lundqvist proved on Thursday night why he is now the highest paid goalie in the NHL. Lundqvist was dominant in the Rangers 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres and made a handful of big saves for the Blueshirts. Hank’s bid for his third shutout of the season was ended with just over two minutes remaining, but he certainly wanted and deserved one.
The Rangers simply had to extend Lundqvist’s contract. It was clear in his press conference on Wednesday that his pending free agency was in the back of his mind and the extension came as a big time relief. He deserves to be the highest paid goaltender in the league and should finish his career with the Blueshirts. Teammates and coaches constantly rave about his work ethic and competitiveness, so I am really not concerned with his play falling off as he ages. People also forget how hard it is to find a solid goalie for any extended period of time (just look at the Flyers), and the Rangers are lucky to have Lundqvist between the pipes.
Now that Lundqvist should be locked in as a Ranger for life, let’s take a look at the rest of the team. Overall, a fine road win for the Blueshirts over a horrible Buffalo team. This is a game the Rangers had to have, and they got the job done, so I cannot nitpick too much. Nash scored another highlight reel goal (which seems to be the only way he can score) to get the Rangers going in the first period. Richards and Zuccarello found the net in the third period to extend the lead to 3-0. While Richards still is not the player we hoped he would be when we signed him, his play this year compared to last is like night and day. Also, it was good to see Zuccarello actually shooting the puck.
While I said I cannot nitpick too much, I still have to point out some clear issues. Pouliot and Pyatt continue to do nothing. The only reason why I think they are still in the lineup is their size (which neither player uses). Vigneault must see something different than I do though, because I would certainly have had Pyatt out of the lineup about a month ago. Also, Callahan’s lack of productivity offensively is a bit of a shock. In previous years, Cally almost always provided some consistently in terms of getting points, even when the team was struggling on the whole. His lack of production (1 goal, 2 assists in past 10 games) is one of the most surprising things about the Rangers so far this season.
I also would love to see Staal and Girardi make more of an impact offensively. Girardi has always been limited on offense and has never really developed his offensive game, which is disappointing. Staal, on the other hand, has proved that he can make an impact on offense, but only has 2 goals and an assist in 29 games this season. He says that he has been watching film and trying to rediscover his offensive touch, which he feels is not far off. Let’s hope that is true.
The Rangers kick off their nine-game home stand vs. the Devils on Saturday. The Devils sit just two points back of the Rangers in the recently-improved Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have lost to the Devils two times this season already, so they really need this one. Once again, they try to move two games above .500 for the first time all year.