Cross posted at The Bleacher Report.
During Mike Richter's bouts with concussions and following his eventual retirement in 2003, the Rangers suffered through sub par goaltending from the likes of Kirk McLean, Guy Herbert and Mike Dunham.
That is until the 2005-2006 season, when a seventh round draft choice named Henrik Lundqvist took Broadway by storm. During his first three seasons in New York, Lundqvist has brought much needed stability in goal, while accomplishing numerous personal achievements including a Vezina Trophy nomination each year.
However, despite his career 2.27 gaa, .917 save percentage and 17 shutouts, Lundqvist has suffered long stretches of average to below average play in all three seasons.
In 2005-2006, Lundqvist came back from the Olympic break to post a 5-5-3 record, including 0-3 with a 4.40 gaa and .835 save percentage in the playoffs.
In 2006-2007, Lundqvist started the season 5-5, with a 3.57 gaa and a .878 save percentage. And finally last year, Lundqvist went through a stretch from mid-December to mid-February going 10-10-4, with a .889 save percentage. Not good.
A logical explanation for those struggles is Lundqvist's work load, which has increased each year peaking with 72 starts in the Rangers 82 games last year. That's almost 90 percent!!!
Now Lundqvist supporters will note that he faded down the stretch in 2006 because of the wear and tear from the Olympics and last year he struggled with a large contract and his father's health hanging over his head. All valid excuses.
However, in my opinion, he would have been better physically and mentally prepared to deal with those factors if he had more rest throughout the season.
Last year, Lundqvist's back-up Steve Valiquette more than proved he could fill-in by posting a 5-3-3 record, with a 2.19 gaa, .916 save percentage and two shutouts.
With the new schedule structure, the Rangers play the Flyers, who Valiquette dominated last year, six times. Valiquette should get four of those games. They play the Maple Leafs in Toronto twice, where Valiquette has a proven success record.
The new schedule also gives the Rangers a chance to play the bottom teams in the West including the Kings, Oilers, Blue Jackets and Blues. All games Valiquette should be starting.
Throw in a couple of games against the lesser teams in the East and the second game of back-to-backs and Valiquette will have a nice little workload of about 20 starts.
By having 20 games to not only rest his body, but also his mind, Lundqvist is going to be better equipped to persevere through the grueling season, leading to more wins for the Rangers. Thoughts?