How much will Henrik Lundqvist's injury hurt the New York Rangers?
Joe McDonald: It's actually going to help. Henrik Lundqvist's hip injury, which will keep him sidelined for two to three weeks, could be a blessing in disguise. The 35-year-old netminder has already played 51 games (including 49 starts) and has a 30-17-2 record, along with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. So, a brief hiatus from the end-of-season grind could give him enough rest before the Rangers embark on the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team is also fortunate that Antti Raanta is more than capable of handling the remaining workload. It's been a long season for Lundqvist that started with him representing Team Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey. Now, when you hear "hip injury" for a goaltender it's never a good thing, but this break could mean the difference between a deep run in the playoffs, or an early exit for the Rangers.
Scott Burnside: I'm with Joey Mac on this one. I don't really think the late-season respite for Lundqvist will have any long-term adverse impact on either the veteran netminder or the team. There's lots to like about Raanta and his .924 save percentage, and the team will be comfortable with him as its go-to guy until the last week or so of the regular season. Many folks believe Raanta will be one of the goalies selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. The silver lining for the Rangers, apart from having a rested and presumably 100 percent healthy Lundqvist come playoff time, is that they should be perfectly content remaining in the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, and staying as far away as possible from the big three in the Metropolitan Division -- theWashington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. No one is suggesting that the Montreal Canadiens (or Ottawa Senators if they continue their torrid play and overtake Montreal as the top team in the Atlantic Division) will be easy pickings in the first round. But the Rangers match up nicely with Montreal, even if the Habs have won all three games against the Blueshirts this season.
Craig Custance: In the short term, I see this impacting the Rangers very little. In Raanta, the Rangers have one of the most capable backups in the league. When I chatted with him after New York's win on Sunday, Raanta seemed completely at ease with the opportunity in front of him and cited previous examples of five- and six-game stretches where he successfully filled in for the starting goalie. He was completely confident he'd continue the strong season he has posted so far and his play during the game did nothing to suggest the confidence was unwarranted. To me, the impact comes later. While I like the rest idea in theory, we're talking about a goalie. These are guys with rhythms and routines and schedules unlike other positions. If Lundqvist was a veteran defenseman, I'd love the idea of him sitting out the rest of March. He's not. He's a goalie. Maybe this is a good thing for him, but I'm not convinced there won't be an adjustment period when he returns -- and that's a hard part of the season to be working off the rust.