Talbot shines in Lundqvist’s absence

On Jan. 31 the New York Rangers seemingly reached DEFCON 5.

“Henrik Lundqvist out indefinitely with a vascular injury after taking a puck to the throat…” For the first time since Lundqvist’s rookie season in 2005-2006 the team knew that it would be without its anchor and most important player for quite some time.

Enter Cameron “Cam” Talbot, the Rangers’ backup goaltender. Since being called up from the minor leagues last season, Talbot’s play has impressed Ranger fans on the nights he’s been asked to give ‘The King’ a breather. Now he was tasked with a much larger responsibility, keeping the team atop the highly competitive Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference in Lundqvist’s absence. And oh boy, has he responded.

During the Rangers’ 2-1 victory over the rival New York Islanders on Tuesday night, Talbot was once again the focal point, stopping 29 of 30 shots including a beauty on a breakaway to keep the game tied late in the second period.

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
Ranger forward Chris Kreider (20) congratulates Talbot with a kiss on the helmet following a victory over the Islanders (Photo: nypost.com).

Since replacing Lundqvist, Talbot’s numbers speak for themselves. He’s now 11-2-3 in 16 starts with a 2.41 GAA and a .920 SV%. And some of those weren’t “gimme” wins, either. He’s beaten some of the league’s elite including: Boston, Nahsville (the NHL’s best), Chicago and the Islanders twice (on the road). The Rangers have taken 23 out of a possible 32 points in the games that Talbot has started and are currently one point behind the Islanders with four games in hand for the lead in the Metropolitan Division.

Talbot also recorded his fifth shutout of the year on Mar. 8 in a 1-0 shootout win on the road against the Blackhawks. Coupling this with Lundqvist’s five prior to his injury, it is the first time in team history that the Rangers have had two goalies tally at least five shutouts in the same season. Pretty neat considering the Rangers are one of the NHL’s oldest franchises.

If there is one negative to all of this, Talbot’s contract expires at the end of next season. However,  I personally don’t foresee him wearing Ranger blue next year because of the way he’s played.

This period has oddly acted as sort of a tryout for other NHL teams who will be shopping for a starting goalie next year. It wouldn’t make much sense for the Blueshirts to overpay for a backup goalie when they’ve invested close to $60 million in one of, if not the world’s best netminder in Lundqvist. And for a guy that’s shown he can be a solid starter in this league, Talbot honestly deserves a shot to be another team’s No. 1.

But that conversation is for a different day. For now, the Rangers haven’t made it clear as to when Lundqvist will return so that means we’re still running on Talbot Time (can I coin that one?). Talbot has been nothing short of stellar in holding the Rangers afloat in their quest to finish the year with a top spot heading into the playoffs. And personally I don’t see anything at this point that indicates he won’t continue to be exceptional. Sometimes being the backup goalie in hockey isn’t the “easiest” job in sports after all…

Feature image courtesy of TheInsideWorldOnline.com

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