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Henrik Lundqvist: “Pen”ned in by Pittsburgh

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Where we look at Henrik Lundqvist’s career against the Penguins in our final installment of Lundqvist vs. the Metropolitan Division

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In this sixth and final installment of Henrik Lundqvist’s history against current Metropolitan Division teams, we take a look at his record against the Capitals’ fiercest rival in recent years, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Overall

Of the six opponents in the current configuration of the Metropolitan Division, Henrik Lundqvist has faced the Penguins more (64 times) than he has any other opponent except for the New Jersey Devils (65). His 64 career starts against the Penguins matches his total against the Devils.

But there the similarities end. While Lundqvist has had a successful career against New Jersey (38-18-8, 2.00, .929, eight shutouts), his career against the Penguins has been less than stellar. His 29-24-11 win-loss record is his worst against any Metro opponent, those 24 losses in regulation the most he has against any division opponent and the second highest number of career regulation losses among all goalies to have faced the Penguins. And, while Martin Brodeur does have 28 regulation losses against Pittsburgh, he had 19 more career wins (48) over Pittsburgh than does Lundqvist (29).

Lundqvist’s career history against the Penguins cleaves into two pieces, an early stretch of games over which he enjoyed considerable success, and a second, longer phase over which his record deteriorated. Over his first 24 career games against the Penguins, from December 2005 to January 2009, Lundqvist was 15-6-3, 2.00, .921, with two shutouts. He lost consecutive games in that stretch only twice and allowed more than three goals in only two of those 24 games, while allowing one or none nine times.

However, starting with a 3-0 loss to the Penguins on January 18, 2009, Lundqvist spun out, enduring a six-game losing streak to Pittsburgh (the longest streak of regulation losses of his career to the Pens) over which he stopped only 151 of 174 shots (.868 save percentage). Starting with that six-game losing streak, Lundqvist is 14-18-8, 2.97, .906, with two shutouts over his last 40 appearances against the Penguins. That stretch is punctuated by an eight-game winless streak he carries into Washington (0-5-3, 4.52, .864).

It is not as if Lundqvist is poorly ranked among goaltenders having faced the Penguins over a significant number of games. Of the 70 goalies to have faced Pittsburgh at least 20 times, he ranks 16th in goals against average (2.60), 19th in save percentage (.911), and tied for seventh in shutouts (four). The issue is his performance against the Penguins relative to his performance against other divisional teams.

Workload and Venue

Henrik Lundqvist has a rather odd history against the Penguins when it comes to shots faced. There is a distinct “sweet spot” of workload in which he has been successful, bracketed by high and low volumes in which he has been markedly less successful.

With respect to the latter, Lundqvist has performed relatively well facing high shot volumes, at least in terms of shot-stopping. He has a .922 save percentage and two shutouts against Pittsburgh in 24 games when facing more than 30 shots, but he has come up short in the win-loss department, posting a record of 9-7-8. At the other end, he has been unimpressive facing low shot volumes, posting a 6-9-1, 3.04, .867 record (one shutout) in 16 games when facing fewer than 25 shots. That record includes four instances in which he played 40 or fewer minutes, all of which resulted in regulation losses charged to his record.

But then there is that “sweet spot.” When facing 25-30 shots against the Pens, Lundqvist is 14-8-2, 2.21, .919, with one shutout in 24 such instances. Only twice in those 24 games did he allow more than three goals; seven times he allowed one or none (6-0-1 in those contests).

Lundqvist’s record against the Penguins by venue is a bit odd as well. His 18-10-7 record on home ice in 35 games is the sort of outcome success one might expect in home-road splits. But that record divides into two parts. Lundqvist was all but unbeatable on home ice against the Penguins early in his career, posting a record of 12-1-1, 1.67, .934. with two shutouts in his first 14 appearances against Pittsburgh. However, over his last 21 appearances against the Pens on home ice, he is 6-9-6, 3.33, .893, with one shutout, and he carries a six-game winless streak as a home goaltender against Pittsburgh into Washington (0-3-3).

The odd thing about Lundqvist’s road record against the Penguins is the degree to which it is the opposite of his home record. There is the overall 11-14-4 win-loss record on the road, compared with the 18-10-7 record at home. But the record breaks down into two pieces that look like a photo-negative of the two pieces of his home record. In his first 14 road games against the Penguins, Lundqvist was 3-9-2, 2.91, .891. But starting in February 2010, he ran off a five-game road winning streak against the Pens that propelled him to an 8-5-2, 2.21, .932 road record against Pittsburgh over his last 15 games in the Steel City.

Efficiency

Henrik Lundqvist has had some difficulties against the Penguins. His .911 overall save percentage against Pittsburgh is his lowest against any Metropolitan Division team except for his save percentage against the Columbus Blue Jackets (.907). Recall that above we noted that his overall career against the Penguins breaks into two parts, an early career period of success covering his first 24 appearances against Pittsburgh over which he had a .921 save percentage. That was followed by a longer stretch over which his save percentage dropped to .906 covering a span of 40 appearances. It should be no surprise, then, that in those first 24 appearances against Pittsburgh, Lundqvist finished the game with a save percentage under .900 only seven times and that over his most recent 40 appearances he was under .900 almost half the time (19 instances).

Lundavist actually has a respectable even strength save percentage against the Penguins over his career, his .924 save percentage at evens ranking seventh among 15 goalies to have faced the Penguins at least 20 times since the NHL began compiling saves by strength with the 1997-98 season.

It is in facing Penguin power plays where Lundqvist has had some problems. No goalie has allowed more power play goals to the Penguins over the course of his career than Lundqvist, and it is not close. His 50 power play goals allowed is 11 more than the total allowed by Martin Brodeur over his career (39). His .860 save percentage when facing Pittsburgh power plays ranks 11th among the 15 goalies with 20 appearances against the Pens who have had saves by strength recorded. His .904 save percentage when his Rangers were on power plays ranks only slightly higher among that group of 15 goalies (ninth), and the five shorthanded goals he allowed to the Penguins is second-most, with only Roberto Luongo having allowed more (eight).

In the end

Henrik Lundqvist’s career against the Pittsburgh Penguins is a mixed bag of results. By virtue of his having played 15 seasons, he ranks highly in wins (fourth with 29). But by the same token, he has lost more often to the Pens than he has won – 24 regulation losses and 11 in extra time for a total of 35 losses in 64 appearances. His underlying numbers have been consistent with that mixed record of success, his goals against average and save percentage being decent, but not especially impressive. There is also the eight-game winless streak against the Penguins he is dragging to Washington (0-5-3); he has not beaten the Pens since February 2016 in what was his fourth and last shutout against the club.

With Ilya Samsonov having but a single appearance against Pittsburgh in his young career (a 4-3 loss last February), Lundqvist might get some quality time to improve his recent record against the Penguins. And perhaps an opportunity to play behind a team with talent superior to that he shared with the Rangers the past few years will allow him to precisely do that.