There's been plenty to be disappointed about this season when it comes to the Rangers. Lack of scoring, zero passion and a dearth of toughness. But the most surprising of all the Blueshirts' issues has been the struggles of Henrik Lundqvist.
From his 10-15-2 record, to his pedestrian .906 save percentage, Lundqvist has been a shell of his former self.
One of the theories early this season was that Lundqvist's struggles had to do with the pressure he was under to perform during a contract season.
However, that idea has been blown up as Lundqvist has allowed three goals or more in six of the seven games he's started since signing a seven-year, $59.5 million contract.
Other possibilities thrown around include the use of smaller pads this season and the change to a defensive system that doesn't stress shot blocking.
While those all make for great conversations on Twitter, JB at Over the Whitestone may have hit the nail on the head…
"…the table below highlights the difference in shot distance against Lundqvist between this season and last. Clearly, a greater percentage of shots were taken from a farther distance (greater than 30 feet) in the 2012-13 campaign. The average distance of shots against Lundqvist was nearly a foot greater. The difference in shooting percentage (success of shooters against him) has increased this season as well.
"Opposing players are taking shots closer to the net and with higher percentage of accuracy."
…for those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know I don't use advanced stats and rarely, if ever, utter the words "Fenwick" or "Corsi." But Lundqvist is a super star goalie who deserves a legit explanation of his struggles other than "Lundqvist's weaknesses were sheltered under Tortorella and are now being exploited." That's not fair to him or his skill level.
…more than any reason I've seen, JB makes a compelling case for Lundqvist's underwhelming play this season. It completely makes sense that his numbers would suffer when opponents are shooting closer to the goal and with more accuracy. Throw in the fact that the Rangers are blocking far less shots and we get a pretty clear picture of why Lundqvist isn't putting up the superhuman numbers Rangers fans have become accustomed to.
…by looking at these numbers, it's real easy to conclude that Vigneault's defensive system is the likely culprit. However, if that's the case, why has Talbot been able to succeed despite playing behind the same defensive system and the same players. Welp, if you look at the shot distance against Cam (via somekindofninja.com), you'll see the average distance of the shots against the backup netminder is 35.5 feet which is over two feet further away than shots against Lundqvist which has led to a shooting percentage of 6.5% which is almost 2.5% lower than against Hank.
…why the Rangers play more defensively sound in front of Talbot is likely something advanced stats cannot explain. As I've offered in the past on this blog, maybe it's the rookie's superior puck handling or possibly his calm demeanor. Whatever the reason is, if the Rangers want to see the Lundqvist of old, they're going to need to tighten up in front of their franchise goaltender or the mediocre performances we've seen from the King during the first half of the season will become more the norm than the exception.