Ryan McDonagh and the Rangers fall down on the job in Game 3, where Henrik Lundqvist (r.), usually a playoff stalwart, struggles stopping shots.
Perish the thought. This could not really be happening, could it? Or at least not the way Dave Maloney so bluntly put it after King Henrik’s Game 3 OT el foldo.
“Tampa,” Maloney said on MSGulag’s TV postgame show Wednesday night after the Rangers’ 6-5 loss, “seems to get into the gray matter of Henrik Lundqvist.”
Coming from Maloney, who has been known to wave the pom-poms during Rangers radiocasts, this was devastating analysis. It was not about Lundqvist’s positioning himself too deep in goal, or some kind of statistical trend, or his teammates’ lack of support. No. Now this is a mind game. The Lightning is deep in Lundqvist’s head. Tampa Bay has his brain scrambled.
This is not a good thing. What will Tampa take next? His spirit?
MSG’s voices are not used to seeing their King become hockey’s version of a punch-drunk fighter slumped against the ropes. Their tone suggested they were even more stunned than Lundqvist over what went down Wednesday night. There was no way even they could sugarcoat Lundqvist allowing six goals in two straight games, especially the 40-foot Mr. Softee Nikita Kucherov wristed by His Highness for the OT winner in Game 3.
There is no way any of these guys was going to totally turn on Lundqvist. Instead, they showered him with tough love, recognizing his blunders but tempering any diss with hope for a brighter tomorrow. At least the Gulag is not the Valley of the Stupid where Gasbags (along with first-time, long-time morons), searching Thursday for the next great debate, were invoking the name of Cam Talbot.
“You end up losing this one in overtime on a goal that your goaltender really has to make the stop — a 40-foot wrist shot,” Joe Micheletti, in Tampa standing next to Maloney, said on Wednesday night’s postgame. “ . . . It was a game where Henrik Lundqvist was either guessing. Or he wasn’t on his game. Or he was struggling.”
Micheletti was candid and thoughtful. He offered anyone watching options for the cause of Lundqvist’s failure. A menu, so to speak — how about an order of “struggling” with some “guessing” on the side.
Enter Maloney with his “gray matter” analysis (the most original theory of the evening) and more. “Not all is forgiven when you give up a 40-foot wrister, in all honesty,” Maloney said. “…He’s got to fight his way through. We know how mentally tough he’s been through his career but this is a challenge.”
It was probably more coincidence that John Giannone took a crack at analyzing Lundqvist’s state of mind. His soliloquy was effective, especially following Maloney’s diagnosis.
OK, cue the sad violin.
“For more than 20 minutes after the game Henrik Lundqvist sat at this locker, with most of his equipment still on, staring at nothing and replaying everything,” Giannone somberly reported. “Most notably that overtime goal was as inexplicable to everyone watching as it was to the man who allowed it.”
Melodramatic? Yes. Nonetheless, for those on the far outside looking in, Giannone’s scene-set brought us somewhere inside Lundqvist’s immediate state of mind not even an hour after a mortifying loss.
Giannone went on to report that the King’s “trance” was broken only by reporters wanting to know “why” he has leaked like a sieve the last two games.
“ . . . Why this Lightning team has unlocked one of the deepest, darkest secrets in hockey,” Giannone said, “how to make Henrik Lundqvist seem painfully vulnerable.”
Why? Why? Why?
Even with all these “whys” still looming, it would not be an MSG production without some positive spin, and some love for Lundqvist. Steve Valiquette, the former goalie turned analyst, said Lundqvist will spend more time than usual Thursday looking at video.
Cue the marching band.
“But with Henrik Lundqvist everybody has to rest assured this guy is the most competitive guy I’ve ever known in my life,” Valiquette said. “And he will be ready to play in the next game.”
Yeah, you tell ’em.
And besides, The King wasn’t the only goalie to stink up the joint. “You can be down on Lundqvist,” said Ron Duguay, “but it’s not like (Ben) Bishop played that well either.”
Misery might enjoy company but remember, Bishop did come out on the long end of the score. Anyway, leave it to Al (Wiggie) Trautwig to bring his usual ray of sunshine to the darkest of Gulag proceedings. “Rangers fans take heart,” Trautwig said. “Take heart in the fact that some of the best hockey the Rangers played this season came after what were very rare two-game losing streaks.”
Yeah go ahead, sell that hope. That’s what MSG does best.
Even on a night when their King looked hopeless.
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