Alain Vigneault announced Monday morning what had been speculated on ever since Cam Talbot's career-high 35-save performance in Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, that Talbot had earned a second consecutive start Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden.
"Cam is playing extremely well right now and has a lot of confidence," Vigneault told reporters Monday. "For me it's about trying to win one game. It's about tonight. This one is about the way Cam is playing right now and tonight's game."
The head coach clearly understands that this is a rare occurrence, something that has not happened often, if at all, during Henrik Lundqvist's eight-plus years in New York---the back up goalie playing two games in a row while Lundqvist sits, especially at The Garden.
"Henrik is definitely the No. 1 goaltender on this team," stated Vigneault. "He's proven that he's one of the best, if not THE best, in the National Hockey League. But for tonight's game I feel the best thing for us is to go with Cam."
Talbot won his sixth consecutive start Saturday afternoon, and is 6-1-0 in eight appearances so far this season. He has allowed two goals or fewer in all seven of his starts, and boasts a 1.49 goals against average and .944 save percentage on the season. Lundqvist is 8-11-0 in 20 appearances with a 2.51 goals against average and .917 save percentage.
Lundqvist admitted after the morning skate that he is never happy if he is not the starting goalie, but that he understands Vigneault is just looking to win a game and Talbot has the hot hand right now.
"I have been here eight years, and have I ever been happy sitting on the bench? I don't think so," said Lundqvist. "But that being said, Cam is playing really well. We have a great relationship. I support (Talbot), and he supports me. This is about the team and doing what's best for tonight. I support that (decision)."
Lundqvist admitted that he has struggled to find consistency in his game this season, and that sometimes a bad goal or a flukey goal, at the wrong time, can skew both statistics and perception of a goaltender. He also understands that he is held to a higher standard, based on the stellar first eight years of his NHL career, 2012 Vezina Trophy, and 2006 Olympic Gold Medal.
Of course no one has higher standards for Henrik Lundqvist then Lundqvist himself.
"This game is not about what you did last year, the last eight years, or last month, it's about now," explained Lundqvist. "I'm not satisfied by being OK or play a solid game. I want to be great, and if I'm not I'm not going to be satisfied. I have to push myself even harder. I want to push myself to play great. It's what I expect from myself."
As for Talbot he was predictably humble and low key about the opportunity presented to him on Monday.
"(My confidence) has been increasing pretty much," stated Talbot. "I’ve been trying to stay grounded and just keep working hard and go out there every day and just try and be ready whenever I get the chance. I just go out there and work hard with (Benoit Allaire) on the ice and come to the gym and work hard, too, and just be ready for whatever opportunities that I get.”
Following tonight's game the Rangers next play Thursday evening up in Buffalo against the Sabres. Lundqvist says he has no idea who will be the starting goalie that night, but is planning on working hard to get his game in top shape for whenever his next opportunity arises.