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First, the Red Sux sign John Lackey putting together the best rotation in baseball. Then the Phillies get arguably the best pitcher in baseball and lock him up for the next 4 years, and then the Rangers play a solid game, only to fall because of, once again, goaltending.

Henrik Lundqvist was not bad in this game. But he wasn’t great either. He made some nice stops on the 5 on 3 at the end, but by then the damage was done. He gave up a goal from the blueline which I know he saw (the seas parted right as Kozlov was on his back swing) and he dropped down WAY too early on the short handed goal to Armstrong exposing the entire top of the net so much so that even I could have score on him, and finally he didnt make a save in the shootout effectively giving away 3 points (2 points the Thrashers didn’t deserve, and 1 point the Rangers did deserve).

On the flip side, Hedberg was definitely a difference maker. The Rangers badly outplayed the Thrashers tonight, peppering Hedberg with over 40 shots, many of them from within 2 feet of the goalie, and quite a few breakaways or partial breakaways mixed in there as well. This is the kind of game we saw last year in our favor. Team played like utter crap, but our goalie was the difference and we won. Unfortunately now, Henrik Lundqvist is, by and large, not a difference maker out there every night. You really have no idea what Lundqvist you are going to get from game to game, you might get the inarguable top goalie in the world that he has been for his entire career, or you might get an enigma of a goalie who seems to make spectacular saves every game, only to give up 2 or more questionable ones as well. What good is it for him to make all those amazing saves if the saveable ones are the ones that are going in? It’s deflating, and frankly I’m wondering if his poor play is actually leading to us having such a trouble scoring.

As a guy who has played on a team where goaltending was a huge problem, I can tell you that when your goalie is playing like crap, you most definitely see a noticeable drop in offensive production. You squeeze sticks knowing that you absolutely must score at least 4 goals a game in order to win because your goalie is definitely going to give up 3 or more regardless of how well you play in front of him. Last season my team went through a stretch where we gave up over 10 goals a game, and didn’t score a single goal for 6 games consecutively. That’s right, we gave up over 60 goals and did not score a single one. Why? Our goaltending was just so horrific that the entire team clammed up into a hyper defensive paranoid B.S. type of hockey because we knew our goalie wasn’t going to be good enough for us to win. Clearly this isn’t 100% the same thing, but its close enough that I can understand how Henriks play is adversely affecting the offensive support. I mean, its not all on him, but at least some small part of his poor play is causing the lack of offense in front of him.

The Rangers will never turn this around if Lundqvist continues to show a lack of focus and concentration that defined him as an elite goalie. Who knows, maybe all these years of constant man under fire type hockey has worn him down, but whatever it is, he is not the same goalie, and it’s likely going to cost this team a playoff spot if it continues.

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