2006-01-06 / Sports

‘NY Hockey Report: Lundqvist Already Proved He’s Number One

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist


Ottawa Senators’ Chris Neil, left, watches as New York Rangers goaltender Kevin Weekes (80) makes a save. (AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward)
Ottawa Senators’ Chris Neil, left, watches as New York Rangers goaltender Kevin Weekes (80) makes a save. (AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward) NEW YORK – Sometimes the obvious move is the right move. So it comes as no surprise coach Tom Renney decided to give the bulk of the goaltending duties to the rookie phenom Henrik Lundqvist for the time being. The coach said it was the right move at the right time and the Swedish netminder will get his chance to shine as long as the ‘W’s continue to come.

“It’s the halfway point and we are giving ourselves a chance to ride who’s hot,” Renney said. “It’s not that we had bad goaltending, but our goaltending has been very good. But for the time being whoever is winning is the guy who has got the net.”

Even though Lundqvist didn’t put up the win in his first game as the number one goalie against Tampa Bay, his performance in the 1-0 loss impressed Renney enough to let him keep his job.

And he should. Hockey is a team sport and Lundqvist gave the Rangers every chance to win the game. The 23 year-old seemed nervous that he would lose his job after the game, but Renney will obviously make his choices by the quality of play and not just points in the standings.

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis (26) collides with New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who will be the #1 goaltender for the foreseeable future. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis (26) collides with New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who will be the #1 goaltender for the foreseeable future. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) “I am not going to rush to judgment and it was a good performance in overtime,” Renney said. “It is just semantics. If it’s 9-8, then it’s a different story, but if it’s 0-0 then the goaltending was pretty good.”

The move also means Kevin Weekes goes to the backup role for the time being. In 16 games, the veteran was 8-7-1 with a 2.98 GAA, but Lundqvist sports a 14-5-5 in 26 games with a GAA of almost a goal a game less (2.19). Weekes has played well, but he saw the writing on the wall.

“The coach outlined the plan and I will respect it and follow it,” Weekes said. “I accustomed to playing a lot of games and this will be an adjustment. Henrik played very well in his first stint in the league. Whenever called upon I will play up to the best of my abilities.”

The 30 year-old Weekes is no dummy and he knows Lundqvist is the future of this organization. With a career record of 86-143-33, he is a journeyman at best and was only considered a caretaker until Lundqvist or Al Montoya was ready to play fulltime. But after the first half, it looks like the time is now for the cool Swedish rookie. A clutch performer, he endeared himself to the Garden crowd by playing at a level not seen since Mike Richter was in between the pipes. He has earned his time and needs to be tested against top teams if Lundqvist expects to grow to the next level.

So even if he loses a few games in a row, Renney should keep his rookie in the crease. More than this what was stated, Lundqvist need to be the clearly defined number one without fear of being pulled in favor of Weekes. It’s a step in the right direction, but this was considered a rebuilding year and the Rangers need a fully mature Lundqvist if he is going to be in goal at the Garden for the significant future.

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