Will Less Starts Be Good for Henrik Lundqvist?

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 11: Matt Carle #25 of the Philadelphia Flyers pounces on a rebound from Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers to score a game tying goal in the third period on April 11, 2010 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 2-1 after a shootout. The victory clinched a playoff berth for Philadelphia. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It seems that most goalies never want to surrender starts, no matter how ridiculous their numbers start to get.

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist started 72 games last season and now even he’s admitting that was way too many.

The funny thing is, Lundqvist wasn’t even an exclusive member of the 70+ start club. There are actually five other goalies who started 70 or more games last season.

The season before, Lundqvist started 70 games, along with three other goalies.

There have always been certain goalies that are NHL work horses. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur for one. Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff for another.

Sometimes a goalie starting over 70 games speaks to goalie depth (or lack thereof) within the organization.

Sometimes that many starts speaks to a hot goalie.

A lot of the time it speaks to a coach who’s too scared to change goalies.

Lundqvist has played in a perfect storm of all three factors. He’s never had a true backup before this upcoming season, assuming Martin Biron works out for the Rangers.

Plus, Lundqvist, has had some breathtaking goaltending moments over the years, including some very hot streaks. When Lundqvist is on, it has to be difficult to entertain the thought of sitting him – even for just a few games a month.

And finally, Rangers coach John Tortorella is a creature of habit. He likes giving a lot of work to his best players, even if it means risking running that player down and perhaps even exposing him to injury.

Lundqvist is obviously a quality NHL goalie, but he’s often been susceptible to yielding soft goals. One theory says mental fatigue from so many starts is what causes Lundqvist to lose his focus at inopportune times. But another theory says Lundqvist needs a lot of work to maintain his focus and less work would result in more mental lapses.

It’s probably a good thing that Lundqvist and the Rangers are going into the upcoming season with ideas of a more conventional goalie workload. But it’ll be interesting to see if the reduced starts results in stronger goaltending from Lundqvist.

Starting over 70 games a season isn’t sustainable but Lundqvist has done a pretty nice job of making it work.