Lundqvist learning it's not always good to be the king
Michael Rushton, NHL Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
For the previous five seasons, the New York Rangers' goal crease has been a well-guarded land of tranquility run to perfection by its king, Henrik Lundqvist.
A recent rough patch by the royal ruler, though, has fans screaming for a change.
What are the chances that Lundqvist has Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" playing on repeat on his iPod?
Much like the fallen monarch depicted in the hit song, Lundqvist once had the Rangers faithful chanting "long live the king," but 8th Avenue has been a lonely place for the 28-year-old over the last two-plus weeks. Lundqvist is 1-4-0 in five starts over that span, posting a 3.74 goals-against average while getting pulled early for the first time this season in a loss to the Avalanche on Nov. 19.
Lundqvist didn't play in the next two games after that, and like Prince John to Lundqvist's Richard the Lionheart, New York fans quickly got behind backup Martin Biron after he led the Blueshirts to consecutive wins, stopping 57- of-60 shots in that span.
As the Madison Square Garden attendance chanted "Marty! Marty!" during New York's 2-1 home win over Calgary on Nov. 22, the days of Lundqvist's first name ringing repeatedly through the historic venue seemed further and further in the past.
One place that hasn't turned its back on Lundqvist is the Rangers' locker room, even after Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Lightning. Lundqvist made his return to net in that one, but allowed a season high-tying five goals over the first two periods.
"I think it was a tough game for me. Right now I'm just trying to work hard and hopefully I can have a better game and the team can have a better game," said Lundqvist.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella may not be the friendliest guy on the planet, but he isn't dumb either. After checking with his goaltender, Tortorella left his No. 1 netminder in the game and Lundqvist responded with a perfect, nine-save third period.
"My number one goal is to get him right," Tortorella said afterwards. "That's going to be the best for our team. So, I did check with him and he wanted to stay in there and fight through it. He didn't get a hell of a whole lot of help here tonight. I thought he made some good saves."
What Tortorella was referring to was the five penalties New York took in the first two periods, a span in which it was outshot 25-7 and allowed three power-play goals. Like a good bench general, Tortorella was quick to squash any lingering goaltending controversy that may be bubbling under the surface when asked how much of Wednesday's loss fell on Lundqvist and his current "situation" in net.
"None," he said. "What situation? You're [the media] trying to make a situation. There is no situation with Hank."
That overall situation with the Rangers isn't that bad either. The club still sits third in the Atlantic Division and had won five of seven prior to the loss to the Lightning. However, four separate losing streaks this year have prevented the club from picking up large runs of momentum.
While Lundqvist is falling on the sword, Tortorella would prefer to see some of his other players step up.
"I know there's a few guys that are tired," said the coach. "You never want to use that as an excuse, but there's been a group, a handful of guys that have done a lot of work for this club and we need the other handful that haven't to come and play our next game ... we need to get some help from some other people."
Tortorella wasn't gun shy either when asked if that included Marian Gaborik, who has just four goals in 11 games while missing time with a shoulder injury, giving a quick confirmation to the question.
With offensive stars Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal still out with injury, the Rangers need players like Gaborik, Alexander Frolov and Ruslan Fedotenko to step up and take the pressure off of Lundqvist.
Otherwise, King Henry's court may continue to crumble before our eyes.