When Henrik Lundqvist went down with a vascular injury in his neck over a month ago, there was obvious concern about where that left the Rangers in a crucial stretch of the season. Cam Talbot had some experience playing in Henrik’s absence in the previous season, but that was in the early part of the season (October/November 2013), not when true playoff contenders separate themselves from the pack. Since Talbot took over, he’s provided a reliable presence between the pipes, and is one of the reasons the Rangers have put themselves in the drivers’ seat to win the Metropolitan Division if they continue to play strong hockey in the last month of the regular season.
With the exception of one game (a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, backstopped by Mackenzie Skapski), Talbot has posted a 13-2-3 record with two shutouts since he took over the crease on February 4th. In five of those games, he’s allowed only one goal (5-0-0). Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but they also don’t lie. These Rangers certainly aren’t the same bunch from a couple of seasons ago, where letting up more than two goals would almost certainly result in a loss, and Talbot has been the beneficiary of quality goal support (they’ve scored at least three goals eleven times in that stretch). But the bottom line is he’s turned in quality outings almost every time since he’s taken over for Lundqvist (sans the Feb 16th victory over the Islanders and the Feb 19th overtime loss to the Canucks), and the Rangers would likely be down in the Wild Card mix if they had an average quality back-up netminder.
The topic of whether or not to trade Talbot in the off-season while his stock is high is being bandied about. The Rangers are currently experiencing why having an above-average back-up goaltender is crucial to be a true championship contender. If I’m Glen Sather, I wouldn’t actively shop him, but the right offer (something involving a high round draft pick to replace some of the ones traded away in the past two seasons) should certainly get some heavy consideration. Talbot signed a one year extension earlier this season, so if the right offer doesn’t come along in the summer, there’s always the 2016 trade deadline.
Kleinless For The Next Month
The Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals this past Wednesday night by a score of 3-1, but it came at a bit of a price. Reliable Rangers Rearguard Kevin Klein will be out for 3-4 weeks with an upper body injury (likely a broken arm), sustained while blocking a shot from Alex Ovechkin. Klein’s performance this season has been very good, and the Rangers will certainly miss his steady presence on the back end. Whether he’s back or not before the end of the regular season remains to be seen, but he should be back in time for the playoffs. The Rangers defensive group was already pretty deep, and the acquisition of Keith Yandle certainly makes this less of a blow to the blueline. Matt Hunwick will be called upon to step up and play smart hockey, like he did earlier in the season when the Rangers were without Captain Ryan McDonagh.