Getting High with Henrik Lundqvist

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a save while New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi (5) looks to see if the puck goes in as the Sharks and the Rangers end the second period tied 2-2 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California

You can argue the NHL doesn’t care about its goaltenders, letting players run them like they’re pieces of broken sticks littering the crease. But New York Post reporter Larry Brooks? He cares about goaltenders.

Since New York Ranger backup goaltender Marty Biron was injured during practice (broken collarbone), Brooks has written quite a few stories questioning the need for the the Rangers to shoot high on their goaltenders during practice.

Yesterday, during practice, a Marc Staal shot got away from him and pegged goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the mask. Lundqvist was shaken but ultimately started and finished last night’s loss to Ottawa.

Still, the errant practice shot was enough to send Brooks into action:

Nevertheless, coach John Tortorella last night repeated what he had previously said last week, that he had no intention of telling his players to keep their shots down against the club’s only indispensible athlete with just two weeks to go in the season and no healthy backup of pedigree in the organization. Indeed, when asked before last night’s 2-1 shootout loss at the Garden to the Senators if he would suggest to his players that they be careful, Tortorella said such a question was “disrespectful.”

“You show a tremendous amount of disrespect to the players when you ask that question,” Tortorella told The Post reporter who had posed the inquiry.

The coach is entitled to his opinion and his philosophy, but it would seem that his team’s shooters are being “disrespectful” to the club’s goaltenders by virtue of the way they consistently sling shots that go whizzing by — best-case scenario — the netminders’ heads.

I’m not defending Tortorella, but it’s silly for anyone to think he would put his team’s only goaltender in unnecessary danger. The Rangers have no safety net in goal. Lundqvist has started the past 19 games and probably won’t get to sit until the Rangers clinch a playoff spot.

It’s a huge workload for a goaltender who, although he’s been very strong in the Rangers’ final stretch, historically performs better with some rest.

I’m not going to pretend to understand the subtle culture of NHL practices, but it seems players do sometimes shoot high on their own goalie. Former goaltender/EA Sports producer/Queens native David Littman says players will shoot high during practice and goalies shouldn’t get mad about it.

If a goaltender doesn’t like high shots, he always has the option of handling things himself. Goalie Ray Emery, then playing for Ottawa, once publicly berated Patrick Eaves for shooting high on him at practice. Emery saw low shots off of Ottawa sticks for the rest of that day.

It’s nice that Brooks is trying to protect the player who is arguably most important to the Rangers’ playoff success, but it seems that while high shots in practice aren’t especially cool, they’re not especially not cool, either. But if Brooks is really worried, he might consider asking Emery to share some tips on terrorizing your teammates with Lundqvist.