Last night, Henrik Lundqvist stole the show, and won game #150 in his young career. Lundqvist, just 27 years old, got to 150 wins in a little over four seasons. At this rate (averaging 35 wins a year), assuming he plays until he is 38 (another 11 years), The King will finish his career with over 500 victories. To put this in perspective, he will get win #302, and set a Ranger record, before he turns 33. His peripherals are outstanding, and he already has 21 shutouts. Of course, there are many factors that come into play here, such as injuries and the increasing workload in the form of shots against, but in his first four years, he has been nothing short of phenomenal.
When it comes to all-time Ranger greats in net, two prominent names come to mind: Mike Richter and Eddie Giacomin. Both are numbers 1 and 2 in pretty much every Ranger goalie stat, and in the fans hearts. There will never be a clear cut line between Richter and Eddie, as fans will never seem to agree who was “better”. Both were flat out great in net, and while Giacomin may be the more decorated of the two, Richter is the one with the Cup and the all-time wins record.
This brings us back to Hank. What if he never wins a Vezina? There needs to be something said for consistency, and usually the most consistent players don’t win that many awards (see: Rivera, Mariano). Vezina’s go to the top goalie in the league for that year, and while the finalists, or even the top five, are consistent, the winner is generally the goalie who was just abnormally great that year (see: Theodore, Jose). Can one trophy be used to measure his success? What if he never wins a Cup? Is that his fault? Hockey, after all, is a team game, and we have seen that the supporting cast has been less than Cup-worthy in the past years.
Then there are the stats. Hockey isn’t mature enough in the metrics department to help account for the many changes in the game since Eddie’s, and to a lesser extent, Richter’s era (like the way ERA+ helps account for this in baseball). Sure, goalie equipment is bigger and lighter, but the skaters are bigger, stronger, and faster. Composite sticks have changed the way pucks are shot. But, you can’t ignore gaudy numbers, such as 150 wins and 21 shutouts before his 28th birthday, no matter what era they come from. How many teams would kill to have that kind of consistency in net?
There’s no denying the fact that if it were any other goalie in net the past four years, we may still be talking about a playoff drought in New York. So in that regard, Hank is already one of, if not the, most influential Rangers of the “new NHL”, and rightfully earned him a spot as one of the top-100 Rangers of all time. Are numbers alone enough to vault him past Eddie and Richter? Or does that Cup mean that much? This debate has only just begun, and it will be become a wild debate as Hank starts approaching these records.