Henrik Lundqvist has had a pretty stellar playoff so far. He leads all goalies with a .934 save percentage, has won two Game 7s (allowing a combined two goals against) and has stopped 60 of the first 63 shots he’s faced in the Eastern Conference final.
In Game 2 against Montreal, Lundqvist made 40 saves to counter the Canadiens having to turn to playoff rookie Dustin Tokarski in their net. Lundqvist, known for stepping up in big games, did it again by staring down an up-tempo Habs attack that was doing its best to balance the inexperience behind it in goal.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien did not hesitate to get to the point of why his team lost and now finds itself trailing the series 2-0 as it turns to New York.
“Lundqvist was the difference in the game,” Therrien said afterwards. ”He was phenomenal, but I was pleased with the way we came out and the effort we showed.”
The Habs did have a good game, but Lundqvist did what elite goalies do in the playoffs: he stole the win. A major storyline coming into this series was the goalie showdown between Price and Lundqvist – the same two who played at opposite ends for the gold medal game in Sochi. So when Price went down with a knee injury, forcing him out of the series, that edge swung hard in favor of the Rangers. Monday night, that played out as paper would suggest.
Montreal star defenseman P.K. Subban had what will be a more controversial take on Game 2 than his coach did.
“Sometimes the puck just doesn’t go in,” Subban said. “In the past, we’ve done those same things and the puck’s gone in. So I mean, is he playing well? Yeah, but we’re doing a good job. Some of it is luck, as well. He’s getting a little bit lucky, but that’s what you need in the playoffs.”
Note: the Canadiens’ only goal in Game 2 was a pretty fortunate bounce.
Luck has certainly played a role in this series: the fact Price was knocked out of it is all you need to support that. The Habs were dealt a bad hand early and it will be difficult to overcome having to play with a tandem of Peter Budaj and Tokarski.
If they do find a way to knock off the Rangers with those two, you might call it luck.
And, sure, Lundqvist’s .952 save percentage so far this series could be construed as lucky, since it is a fair bit higher than his overall SP this post-season. But it’s only been two games and, in a bubble, in a one game playoff scenario, is it lucky that Lundqvist stood on his head for 40 saves? No sir. It would be lucky if Tokarski got a shutout, or if Marc-Andre Fleury had outplayed Lundqvist in a Game 7.
This kind of domination is what the rare game-breaking goalies like Lundqvist do and it’s an advantage the Canadiens themselves have experienced a few times this playoff season. And it goes for other positions, too. Was it lucky Subban scored the OT winner against Boston in Game 1 of that series? Heck no. Great players own timely moments and big games.
Some might say Montreal was lucky to not have to face a Vezina finalist in Round 1 against Tampa Bay.