Today at Blue Seat Blogs, we will pay tribute to the one true King of New York, Henrik Lundqvist. At some point today, the NY Rangers will buy out Lundqvist. For 99% of the fan base, this is as heart breaking at the Brian Leetch trade. Every writer at BSB will pay their respects to The King throughout the day. Lundqvist has earned that right. Much like Leetch would have if this blog existed in 2004.
Lundqvist backstopped the Rangers for 15 seasons. In his 15 seasons, he put up a 459-312-96 record, with a 2.44 GAA and a .918 SV%. The Rangers missed the playoffs just three seasons in those 15. They missed the playoffs just once from 2005-2017.
Henrik Lundqvist departs from New York as the club record holder in games played, wins, shutouts, minutes played, save percentage, and assists (min. 100+ games played). But it was the playoffs where he shined. Hank upped his game when it counted, posting a 2.30 GAA and a .921 SV% in the playoffs. His 61-67 record is reflective of the teams he carried year in and year out.
He shined in the playoffs, but he was a star in elimination games. When everything was on the line, Lundqvist went 15-5 with a 1.74 GAA from 2012-2017. He somehow was even better in Game 7s, as Lundqvist posted a stellar 1.11 GAA and a .961 SV% in winner-take-all games. This is why he’s the King. This is why today hurts.
Throughout his career, Lundqvist won award after award: Five All Star Appearance, a Vezina, and nine team MVPs, including seven straight from 2007-2013. The 2005-2017 Rangers that missed the playoffs just once doesn’t happen without Henrik Lundqvist. Two Conference Finals, one Stanley Cup Final, one President’s Trophy, and two Division winners don’t happen without Henrik Lundqvist.
This is the most difficult post I’ve ever had to write. I grew up playing goalie, idolizing Mike Richter. That period of time when Richter was dealing with injuries until Lundqvist took the reigns was painful. Then the Rangers were a disaster. The years from 1997-2005 were absolutely painful.
I don’t think I’d be as big a fan of the Rangers if it wasn’t for Lundqvist. I started paying attention. Lundqvist gave me hope after 7 years of Knicks-esque ineptitude. I went from casually watching the game to watching every game.
When I started watching every game, I needed more. I started Googling Rangers blogs. I came across Sam Weinman’s blog at Lohud. Even then I needed more. I wanted more analysis, more insight into the Rangers. Specifically more insight into Henrik Lundqvist’s game. It was then that I started the blog, with a little nudge from Becky. I do not exaggerate when I say that this site would not exist without Henrik Lundqvist. The tagline of this site was “In Hank We Trust” for 12 years!
Lundqvist is the reason the Rangers came back to relevancy. The second he took over the starting job from Kevin Weekes, the Rangers mattered. It was baptism by fire, as he took the reigns and immediately –along with Jagr, Straka, and Nylander– led the Rangers to their first playoff appearance since 1997.
Calm and collected in net, I was mesmerized. How could a goalie get post to post so quickly? Everything was fluid. There were no jerky motions. No desperation saves on cross ice passes. Just a pad on the ice and the glove tight to it before the shot could even get off. All while playing deeper in the net than anyone I had ever seen. How did he do it?
The answer is that he’s a generational talent. One that transcended the game and forever changed the position. I always felt confident going into a playoff series, even if the Rangers were the inferior team. That reason was Lundqvist. He was the dominant on-ice presence that could steal a series. And he did so many times.
That flurry of saves against Pittsburgh in 2014. You know what I’m talking about – the one where he loses his stick. That last save before the whistle, the one where the shot deflects off a stick on the ice and he *still* got it. I have no idea how he did it. No other goalie makes that save.
Just one series later against Montreal. That windmill save in Game 6. Dominic Moore may have scored the series winner, but that save was the clincher.
And who could forget the headers?
A mere mortal in net does not win these series’ for the Rangers. We were all captivated watching Lundqvist at his best. We were privileged to have watched him dominate the NHL for as long as he did.
For 15 years, this was Henrik Lundqvist’s city. For 15 years, Lundqvist was the face of New York hockey. And for 15 years, Lundqvist was one of the most popular athletes in New York. It’s a shame the Rangers couldn’t put together a consistent Stanley Cup caliber team in front of him.
Thank you, Henrik Lundqvist. For everything. I hope you get that Stanley Cup you deserve.