NHL Week in Review (January 15-21)

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Playing any sport is a physical endeavour as it requires some sort of fitness to play whether it be hockey, basketball, football, or any other sport.

To play a sport at a high level it takes that much more fitness as they need to compete with the better athletes.

Things step up when it comes to the best of the best as only those who have the physical ability to be the best can compete at the top level.

What is not given as much credit though is the fact that to play at the highest level in any sport the mental side of the game takes one a new purpose.

There are plenty of good players but few great players and out of those great players only a few can make the professional ranks and stay there.

The different thing they have is that they have what it takes mentally to make a difference in the league.

In hockey, there is no position that requires more mental toughness than that of the goaltender.

In a sport where allowing no goals in a game is considered a rare accomplishment it takes a different mentality to be great.

Goals will be scored and not all will be great but goalies need to get over those goals and get their heads back into the game.

When they can’t seem to do that they get pulled and have to take a seat in order to save the game because if they continue to struggle it could mean more trouble.

Traditionally the goaltenders have been known as those hockey players that are just a little off when it comes to their mentality.

After all, they are the only players on the team that willingly stand in front of frozen pucks that sometimes travel faster than 100 mph.

It takes a different mentality to do that while also being the only player on the ice at all times that needs to keep his focus during times where the puck is nowhere near them.

It definitely takes a special mentality to do it and to do it well that mentality has to be stronger than everyone else.

For years Henrik Lundqvist was the epitome of that mentality as he was largely considered the best in the world.

Throughout the years as the backstop for the New York Rangers, Lundqvist was the biggest reason for any success.

They simply weren’t a team built to compete for the Stanley Cup but Lundqvist gave them hope every year as the constant in the net.

He was the guy that helped the Rangers to some great seasons and everyone just wondered whether or not the Rangers could be built around him before his time was up.

That pattern continued throughout this season until recently when Lundqvist began to seem human.hockey-sidebar

Since the calendar turned to 2017, Lundqvist has not been his consistent self as he has seen his numbers drop far below what he usually puts up in a season.

At the end of the week, he had a .902 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average which are only good enough to be ranked 32nd among the most active goalies in the league.

For many goalies, those stats are not that bad but they are certainly not numbers that stand out among starters in the league.

They stand out even less when you consider that Lundqvist is supposed to be one of the best goalies in the league.

Right now he is far behind the stat leaders like Devan Dubnyk, .936 SV% and 1.88 GAA, and Sergei Bobrovsky, .932 SV% and 1.98 GAA.

There is nothing that says that he is among the best in the league right now and for the Rangers that is a scary thing.

It might all go back to that mental toughness though as Lundqvist is still likely one of the most talented players in the league but his mentality might be breaking down.

After years of the team leaning on him, he is beginning to falter and once he starts faltering it can be tough to get back.

The best players in the game can do it and Lundqvist is among those great players and has been through this before.

He will likely come back but that doesn’t stop many people from believing he is beginning to fall off and that he might be headed to the bench.

Antti Raanta has played well in relief but the reports of Lundqvist’s demise is far too soon as he remains one of the best goalies in the league.

His mental strength will come into play and he will look to get back on track to being one of the best in the league.

Overtime
(More on this week in hockey)

Quickly at 100
Connor McDavid earned his 100th point this week in only his second season and his 92nd game becoming one of the fastest to get to that milestone joining an elite group of some of the greatest players ever

Henrik Hits 1,000
Henrik Sedin has spent his entire career alongside his brother in Vancouver and in all of that time he has put up plenty of points including his 1,000th this week against his old goaltender Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers

Julien on His Way Out
The Boston Bruins are not happy about the way their season is going despite their success this year and if they make the playoffs but don’t go too far it could fall on Claude Julien who seems to be on the hot seat

standings-w15-fw

Key Scores:
Minnesota Wild 3-2 Chicago Blackhawks
– It was a surprise for many as the Wild have risen to near the top of the league and although these games are usually meaningless this time around it was different and the Wild proved that they belong on top beating the Blackhawks

Pittsburgh Penguins 8-7 Washington Capitals (OT)
– It is a rivalry that has grown as Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby continue to put up points although this game wasn’t controlled by the two stars with only Crosby scoring despite the offensive output in the game

Detroit Red Wings 6-5 Boston Bruins (SO)
– Any time that two Original Six teams face off it is always interesting but this time it was two teams headed in opposite directions but that didn’t stop the Wings from taking the win despite sitting below what they are used to at this point in the season

Edmonton Oilers 7-3 Calgary Flames
– As the two Albertan teams fight for playoff positioning this rivalry is re-ignited but things didn’t start well for Calgary in this one with three quick goals for Edmonton that led to a big win for the Oilers

Next Week:
Los Angeles Kings vs. New York Rangers (Monday, January 23rd; 7:00 pm ET)
– A battle of the coasts is not the same as it was only a few years ago as the Kings are not the team they used to be while the Rangers are sticking at the top as they face-off with the Kings hoping to start a run to the end of the season

St. Louis Blues vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Tuesday, January 24th; 7:00 pm ET)
– Two of the top teams this year will fight it out as the Blues and the Pens are having great seasons and both will look to keep those seasons going while they get tested against the toughest test of their season

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings (Wednesday, January 25th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Leafs are in the news as they are actually a team that has a chance at the playoffs and they will hope to continue to walk on that path as they take on an old rival in the Red Wings who are trying to hold on to their hopes of a 26th straight playoff appearance

Winnipeg Jets vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Thursday, January 26th; 8:30 pm ET)
– The Jets have had an up and down season this year and they will look to go on the upswing as they enter the All-Star break as they hope to beat the Blackhawks and move their way up the standings

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