– Henrik Lundqvist
is clearly struggling now and nothing could be worse for the New York Rangers
Not their turnovers. Not their discipline problems, from the coach on down. Not their lack of offense.
The Rangers’ worst nightmare has come true in the last two games against the Washington Capitals
. Lundqvist hasn't been there to bail them out like he was through most of the first four games of this best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal round series.
Game 7 is Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).
Lundqvist has allowed nine goals against on the last 34 shots he's faced, including five on 20 shots in Sunday's 5-3 loss. He was pulled Sunday after 40 minutes for the second-straight game. Lundqvist had never before been pulled from back-to-back games.
"It's not a fun feeling to sit there, knowing that obviously you want to be on the ice and playing," said Lundqvist, who stopped 141 of 149 shots through Games 1-4. "Then again, you start to think about what is to come on Tuesday. The only thing I can do is get a good practice (Monday) and prepare for it."
The Rangers will say that Lundqvist is the least of their concerns; that their defense has to be better, they have to be smarter and they can't be as turnover prone in Game 7.
All are true, but as assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld said Sunday after serving as the team's head coach for the suspended John Tortorella, Lundqvist "absolutely" has to be better if the Rangers plan on winning this series.
"Henrik has had two games where he has been pulled, but knowing Henrik the way I know him I don't think our concern will last past the first period in Washington," Schoenfeld said. "He is a battler."
told NHL.com that Lundqvist did hold the mental edge over the Capitals after Game 4, when he stopped 38 of 39 shots, but not anymore.
"He seemed very confident at the start and whether or not we weren't shooting the pucks in the right places, he was playing outstanding," Green said. "He still is, but maybe we have found our knack."
That being said, the Rangers' frustrations go way beyond Lundqvist. It's possible that it could turn into a confidence problem for this team. The Rangers have been thoroughly defeated in the last two games after narrowly escaping with three one-goal victories in the first four games.
The Capitals even outscored the Rangers, 8-7, through the first four games. They outshot them, 149-99.
"Some guys rise to the occasion, some guys shrink," Schoenfeld said. "The teams that advance, they can't wait for the challenge. We have some guys like that. We have some guys we've got to squeeze it out of frankly and we had some guys (Sunday) that I think were physically gassed. You could just tell they wanted to give, but didn't have it to physically give. We've got to get them revved up before the next game."
Lundqvist may very well be one of them.
"It is hockey," he said. "You just have to deal with it. I have to look over the game and see what I can do better. As a team, we have to see what we can do better."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com