The New York Rangers have a goaltender who has held opponents to two goals or less in every start this year and has compiled a 6-1-0 record over that span. That goaltender is not King Henrik Lundqvist but rather his understudy (the prince?) Cam Talbot, who will be making his second consecutive start when the Rangers host the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.
So, do the Rangers have a goalie controversy?
Well, it might be a little early for that distinction, but it certainly is an interesting development given Lundqvist's reputation as one of the world's best goaltenders. Having struggled in the early goings of this season, a great deal of tension has existed around Lundqvist. Coming off a disappointing end to last season, Lundqvist was credited as a factor in the firing of head coach John Tortorella, faced questions about his ability to adapt to changes in goaltender equipment and experienced the uncertainty of having to perform in a contract year.
Yes, the 31-year-old is playing out the final year of a six-year, $41.25 million contract and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. By most accounts, Lundqvist potentially could sign the most lucrative contract by a goaltender in league history. But that still hasn't happened and one wonders whether the Rangers, a team who lives near the upper-limits of the salary cap, will be interested in giving a maximum term contract to a 32-year-old player.
Of course, that kind of speculation is best served for another day. Head coach Alain Vigneault commented on Monday that Talbot is getting the nod because of his recent play and that Lundqvist is still considered the club's No. 1 goaltender. As was discussed earlier, Talbot has performed exceptionally well. Lundqvist will surely be representing Sweden at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, so some time off early in the year might pay big returns in the long run.
And really, what better time to play your backup than when he has the hot hand?
Lundqvist has registered a 2-5-0 record in his last seven starts, but has held opponents to two goals or less in four of those games and has done so in 12 of his 20 appearances this season. So while the early trappings of a controversy exist, a two-game stand isn't enough for Talbot to steal the crown. But an extended stay of productivity from the 26-year-old might start to fan the flames over that possibility.