Lundqvist making Conn Smythe case

Should the New York Rangers eventually claim the 2012 Stanley Cup, Monday night’s last-second “Gut Punch at the Garden” by Brad Richards could go down as one of the Blueshirts’ most memorable markers, right up there with that of Stephane Matteau (Matteau! Matteau!). But in a contest featuring two huge Ranger tallies in the game’s final 2 minutes of playing time, it might be easy to overlook the goals that weren’t scored.

You could look at the Washington Capitals’ shot totals and surmise that the Rangers had the Caps’ offense on lockdown Monday night. That would be incorrect. In fact, Washington had the same number of scoring chances as New York (16 apiece).

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The Rangers completely outworked, outhustled and ultimately outshot the Caps in Period 1, but there were few quality chances among that 17-shot barrage.

“They were taking shots from corners, shots from long range,” Caps head coach Dale Hunter, shrugging off the Rangers’ opening blitz in his postgame press conference. He was right too. The Caps actually emerged from the first period with a 4-2 edge in terms of scoring chances, defined as shots directed towards the net in the home plate-shaped area that extends from the goal posts to the faceoff dots and up to the top of the circles.

With that in mind, we’re once-again reminded of how great Henrik Lundqvist has been this postseason. In fact, ESPN Insider contributor Neil Greenberg looked at all Round 2 playoff goalies and how they’ve fared against scoring chance-caliber shots, essentially eliminating the bad-angle blasts and low-percentage bombs from distance to see how the netminders stacked up against the most dangerous shots. Unsurprisingly, Lundqvist measured up very well, ranking No. 2 behind Phoenix’s Mike Smith with a save percentage of .911 against dangerous shots. To put that in some context, the NHL average save percentage against scoring chances is .854. Yeah, that Lundqvist kid is doing pretty okay in the crease for the Rangers.

So, as fans replay Richards’ under-the-trapper, through-John-Carlson’s armpit, off-the-post-and-in heart stopper (or maybe heart-starter) keep in mind that the impeccably-coifed Swede in the crease kept the Blueshirts within striking distance in Game 5, and has all postseason long.