MSG Network NHL analyst (and former Blueshirt) Martin Biron thinks New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault made the right decision to stick with backup goaltender Cam Talbot after the coach pulled starter Henrik Lundqvist in the second period Tuesday night.
With the Rangers trailing the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in Game 5 at Bell Centre, Vigneault decided to replace Lundqvist with Talbot. The Rangers countered with three straight goals to tie the game at 4. At that point, many hoped Vigneault would go back to Lundqvist, but the coach elected against it.
New York ultimately lost to Montreal 7-4. The Rangers lead the Canadiens 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. Game 6 is Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I think they made the right decision; really, it was the only decision,” Biron said. “When you’ve pulled your starter for the backup in the second period, and it’s a situation like this, at 4-1, you’re kinda telling [him], ‘Listen, just go relax. Do whatever you gotta do to get ready for Game 6, because this one, if we win it, it’s a bonus. We’re just gonna try to change something, and we know Talbot has played well in Montreal, so it’s a situation where he can come in and give us a few saves and let’s see if he can get us back in the game.'
“Now what I thought was interesting is because of where Talbot is [relative to the bench], it’s hard for the coach to tell him you’re going in the net; so he’s across the bench in Montreal, he’s not sitting on the bench, so now it takes about a minute, a minute-and-a-half, almost two minutes after they scored their fourth goal to get Lundqvist out of the net. Now I started thinking to myself, ‘What if the Rangers score a goal and they make it 4-2, do you pull Lundqvist?’ Because Talbot’s already getting his equipment, and the answer was, yes, you still pull him because it’s not his night, it’s not the team’s night, so let’s try to change the momentum. And I thought the same frame of mind is coming from me [in terms of sticking with Talbot] for the third period; that’s why I thought it was the right decision to keep Lundqvist away and let him get ready for Game 6.”
Biron, who used to serve as Lundqvist’s backup, knows better than anyone how difficult it is on a goalie to get pulled from the net. A goaltender will check out mentally, and there was no reason for the Rangers to risk injury in this instance.
“Some people don’t understand; they say, ‘He’s their No. 1 goalie, he should be ready to go in whenever you’re asked to.’ But goalies are totally different. You get so mentally focused to play at the start of the game. If they pull you, it’s like the steam comes out of the kettle. You just have to sit and think about the next game, and that’s what he was doing.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, here are Lundqvist's stats in games following a game in which he was pulled:
2013-14 regular season: 3 games, 3 starts, 2-1 record, 3.57 GAA, .879 SV%
Career regular season: 17 games, 17 starts, 12-3-2, 2.41 GAA, .914 SV%
2014 playoffs: 1 game, 1 start, 1-0, 1.00 GAA, .963 SV%
Career playoffs: 3 games, 3 starts, 1-2 record, 3.00 GAA, .887 SV%