We reach the halfway point in our investigation of the career of Washington Capitals goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s career against teams of the Metropolitan Division with a look at his history against the New Jersey Devils.
Interlude… “Washington Capitals goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.” Who thought anyone a few years back would type that phrase, and…doesn’t it look good?
Back to the subject. After looking at Lundqvist’s career against the Metro overall, and his history against the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets, we turn to Lundqvist against the New Jersey Devils over his 15-year NHL career.
There is no team in the NHL that Henrik Lundqvist has faced in the regular season more than the New Jersey Devils. He has 65 career appearances against the Devils, a total surpassed by only one NHL goalie (John Vanbiesbrouck faced the Devils 76 times in his career). Lundqvist has more wins (38) against the Devils than he does against any other Metropolitan Division opponent.
Those 38 wins are, by far, the most any NHL goalie has recorded against New Jersey (Vanbiesbrouck has 30 wins). His eight shutouts are more than he has against any Metro opponent, and that total is more than the Devils have suffered against any other goalie in their history. His 2.00 career goals against average against the Devils matches his best against any other division team (2.00 against Carolina), and it is the best GAA of any of 51 goalies to have faced New Jersey at least 20 times in the regular season. And, his .929 save percentage in 65 games against New Jersey is third-best among that same group of 51 goalies to face the Devils at least 20 times (Tim Thomas: .931; Jaroslav Halak: .930). He has enjoyed quite a bit of success against this team through the years.
You might remember that in looking at Lundqvist’s career against the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets, his history broke rather cleanly into two parts with respect to his success and efficiency. Not so against the Devils. Against New Jersey, Lundqvist has been streaky. In 65 appearances against New Jersey over 15 seasons he has a record of 38-18-8 (one no-decision), 2.00, .929, with eight shutouts. He has winning streaks of four or more games four times, accounting for 21 of his 38 total wins against the Devils. On the other side, only three times in his career against the Devils has he lost two or more consecutive games and not at all in 18 games since he lost two consecutive games in regulation in the 2013-2014 season.
There is an interesting detour to be explored here, and that is Lundqvist and how he measures up against a Hall of Fame goalie over a significant stretch of games and seasons. Although he need not fear (or look forward to) matchups against retired goalie Martin Brodeur, his head-to-head confrontations open a window into Lundqvist’s ability to step up against a formidable opponent. And his career numbers against Brodeur were impressive, indeed. He faced Brodeur 41 times over nine seasons (2005-2006 through 2013-2014) and posted a record of 26-9-6, 1.72, .936, with six shutouts. If there is a smudge in that record, Lundqvist was much better early in his history against Brodeur, going 15-2-4, 1.40, .947, with three shutouts in his first 21 appearances against Brodeur; he was 11-7-2, 2.08, .925, with three shutouts in his last 20 appearances against the Hall of Famer.
Workload and Venue
Shot volumes seem to have mattered little to Henrik Lundqvist when facing the Devils. If 30 shots against is a threshold, then the difference between Lundqvist’s .940 save percentage when facing 30 or more shots and his .919 save percentage when facing fewer than 30 shots might be itself a “volume” effect (if you’re facing high shot volumes and stopping them, you don’t get pulled from games, and there might be a “quality” issue in the nature of shots faced in high-volume circumstances). It is only at the very high shot volumes that Lundqvist’s performance deteriorated against New Jersey, and that was solely on a win-loss basis. When facing 40 or more shots, he was 2-2-2, 2.11, .951. He kept his Rangers in those games despite the more unfortunate outcomes.
The home and road split for Lundqvist against New Jersey has followed an expected path. In the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden, he was almost impenetrable. In 33 appearances on home ice against New Jersey, he was 23-5-4 (one no decision), 1.49, .945, with six shutouts. Until his no-decision against the Devils on March 7, 2020 this season, he had a run of eight straight games in which he earned points for the Rangers (6-0-2, 1.85, .930).
On the road, Lundqvist’s fortunes were different, if mixed. His underlying numbers – a 2.50 goals against average and .914 save percentage with two shutouts – were respectable, if significantly less impressive than his home ice numbers. However, he was able to post only a 15-13-4 win-loss record across the river from Manhattan. And in an odd bit of symmetry, perhaps owing to the Rangers’ declining fortunes in recent years, he won only one of his last six appearances in New Jersey, going 1-4-1, 3.48, .902.
As noted, Henrik Lundqvist has the third-best save percentage of any of 51 goalies ever to face the Devils at least 20 times in the regular season (.929). That efficiency in stopping shots extends to situations. His .936 save percentage in even strength situations ranks fourth on that list, a feat made more impressive in that no goalie on that list is within 250 even strength shots faced of Lundqvist since shots by strength have been compiled by the NHL in 1997-1998 (1,448; Marc-Andre Fleury has faced 1,163 shots from the Devils at even strength).
The NHL has been compiling shot by strength statistics only since the 1997-1998 season, making comparisons among goalies difficult over the span of seasons in which the Devils have been an opponent (New Jersey came into the league as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974-1975, the same season that the Caps entered the NHL). However, Lundqvist’s .891 save percentage when facing Devil power plays ranks does compare favorably among goalies whose number have been compiled in that span (fifth of 14 goalies in this group for whom numbers have been compiled). His save percentage when the Rangers were on power plays is consistent with results on other situations, his .936 save percentage in those situations ranking fourth among the 14 goalies for whom numbers have been compiled.
In the end
The nature of Henrik Lundqvist’s dominance over the New Jersey Devils is qualitatively different from that he has over the Carolina Hurricanes, but he has been dominant, nonetheless. His recent history has been less impressive, perhaps a reflection of age and the diminished quality of the team in front of him with the Rangers, but he has maintained quality numbers. If there is one thing to watch for in his new colors, it would be how he fares in his appearances in New Jersey, were he to have any. Still, having a nominal backup goaltender with this kind of history against a divisional opponent would seem to be a plus for the Capitals as they seek to occupy once more the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.