Can the Rangers survive Lundqvist’s injury?

The New York Rangers announced on Friday that Henrik Lundqvist is going to miss at least three weeks. Some sources have cited a more practical time frame as being a minimum of a month.

Last week I talked about the winning percentage of the Metropolitan Division teams when you break down their games into save percentage groupings to see how the team performs when they’re getting solid goaltending and when they’re getting below league-average goaltending.

Here are those groupings again, followed by league-average winning percentage at those save percentages.

Save % Win %
0.913 or better 0.777
0.900 to 0.912 0.536
0.885 to 0.899 0.503
0.884 or worse 0.246

One thing that first piece revealed was that the Rangers haven’t been great when they get goaltending below .900. They’re 2-9-1 when they get sub-.900 goaltending. That’s 30% at the .885-.899 level and 14.3% at .884 and below. Well below league average in those categories.

Luckily for the Rangers, they’ve had fewer games under .900 than any other team in the Metro.Their 12 games under .900 stands out with the second fewest games under .900 in the division going to the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes who have 19 games each. Here’s where the Rangers stood in that regard at the 46-game mark.

Lundqvist has had a great year, but he’s played in 39 of the team’s 49 games so far. For the next three to four weeks Cam Talbot is taking the reins. Talbot has played well, posting a .924 Sv% through 10 starts this season. He’s only posted a save percentage under .900 twice in those 10 games.

Those are great numbers, but this will be the first time he takes on a starter’s workload at the NHL level.

Over his career, his starts break out like this:

Games
.884 & below 2
.885-.899 2
.900-.912 5
.913 & above 21

Talbot has posted some impressive numbers in his short career. If he can continue to perform at this level the Rangers may be able to stay on track to make the playoffs. They currently hold the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, with Boston trailing them by three points in the second wild card spot and Florida occupy the top spot outside of the playoffs, eight points back from the Rangers.

The Rangers are also fortunate to have only one back-to-back over the next month. That will come on Saturday and Sunday of this week. Outside of that, they may be able to avoid having to depend on Talbot to shoulder the notoriously difficult situation there or turning to Mackenzie Skapski, who hasn’t yet played a NHL game. Skapski has a .914 Sv% for the Hartford Wolf Pack through 24 games this season.

If Lundqvist should need to be out longer than a month, the team could start to run into trouble. They face three back-to-backs in March and another in April, making for eight of their final 18 games of the season taking place in a back-to-back. All four of them involve travel. (Though, arguably, the back-to-back that sees them in Madison Square Garden and then at the Prudential Center against the Devils the next night isn’t really a travel day.)

With just one back-to-back and only three interdivisional games in the next month (just one of which is against a playoff-bound team), this may wind up being a good time — if there can be said to be a good time at all — for Lundqvist to find himself out of the lineup.

Talbot has a small body of work, but it’s of an ilk that the Rangers can work with. If he falters the Rangers don’t have a reliable third option and they haven’t proven an ability to win when they aren’t backed by solid goaltending. If they can get through this stretch without Lundqvist, they’ll have him back before the playoffs and they’ll be fine. But they’re going to be leaning on a 27-year-old goaltender who has played in a total of 33 NHL games. Their back-up plan to that is a promising 20-year-old goaltender who has never played in a NHL game and is playing in his first pro season.

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