Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 10/9/11

Henrik Lundqvist is the only reason why the New York Rangers walked away with a combined two points this past weekend in back-to-back season opening games against the Kings and Ducks. Hank finished with a total of 54 saves over the team's first two games, and without him both likely would have been put out of reach as early as the first period. Is this really the burden that the Blueshirts want to put on their goaltender this early into the season? Do they honestly expect him to make it through an 82-game campaign if he has to stand on his head every night?

It is way too early for the Rangers to be relying on their goaltender in the way they have in games one and two of 2011-12. The way I see it, there are always going to be games in which Henrik Lundqvist is forced to steal points for his team; there's no way around that plain and simple. However, with the improved offensive lineup that the Blueshirts have stepping out on the ice this year, they should be providing their goalie with more of a cushion to work with, and should be using him as a second defense - not a first. 

There's no doubt that the absence of Marc Staal (post-concussion symptoms) has affected the team's play in their own zone in front of Henrik, but there's no telling when he will be returning to the lineup, so that cannot be looked at as an excuse. The bottom line is that the squad needs to clean up and tighten up in front of their goaletnder because it's pathetic that they are already relying on him to win games just two days into the season. 

And believe me, that's not something Lundqvist gets particularly frustrated about because he enjoys the extra work and being tested often. And to his credit, he's risen to the occasion time and time again through the first two games. His best stop yet had to be yesterday's sprawling leg-save on Bobby Ryan in the second period, as seen below:


But whether Lundqvist likes the heavy workload or not, it's not going to benefit him or his club in the long-haul. We've spoken a lot about how extra rest last season helped preserve Lundqvist for when he was really needed late in the year and into the playoffs. There will be no "preserving" this time around if he's one of the only players to mentally show up at the rink each game. 

Part of the problem has been the string of penalties the Rangers have been taking, because regardless of how many shots Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky block, Lundqvist will always be the team's best penalty-killer. There's no individual on the roster who works harder than Hank on the pk, and I think the entire locker room would agree with that statement. Henrik puts a boatload of pressure on himelf as it is, but ups the ante when his team is a man down. 

The Rangers will be off today after traveling back to the United States from Europe last night, but they'll be back on the ice for practice late Monday morning. I'm sure one of the main focal points leading up to Saturday's match against the Islanders will be team defense and how to lighten the number of pucks that are getting through to Lundqvist each game. It's one of the several issues that need to be addressed before this team can actually grab their first win of the season. 

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