With Pekka Rinne caught in a four-game winless skid, Henrik Lundqvist is quietly emerging as the League's top fantasy netminder. His performance on Saturday spoke for itself.
With the potent offense of the Philadelphia Flyers in town for a preview of the season's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, things got heated early and often. But Lundqvist's 29-save shutout gave the New York Rangers the last laugh in the latest chapter of their spirited rivalry with Philly.
Lundqvist (9-4-3, 2.05 GAA, .935 save percentage, 2 SO) has won seven of his last eight starts overall, and notched another masterful effort in a big game behind a suddenly stout Rangers defensive front -- even with Marc Staal (concussion-like symptoms) having missed all 20 games this season. The Rangers, who started the season slow, are only five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins -- who sport the League's best record -- with four games in hand.
In short, the Rangers have become an elite team for a reason. And with all due respect to Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan, Lundqvist has been the team's backbone through thick and thin. The Blueshirts have played the second fewest games in the League to date (20), but Lundqvist is still tied for ninth in the League in wins. He also sports the fourth-best save percentage and is among the leaders in shutouts.
If this dominant stretch of play is any indication, Lundqvist will start 60-plus games for the Rangers and make his fantasy owners proud in the process.