In the coming time leading up to Henrik Lundqvist’s retirement and subsequent Hall of Fame induction, there will be a lot of e-ink and actual ink spilled about his place amongst NHL goaltending and New York Ranger greats. Typically I’m not a fan of ranking anything. Many factors or details are involved there is rarely a clear-cut choice, and it muddies the water. In the end, it can help to tier the items to be chosen then arrive at a ranking by splitting up those tiers as necessary. Even if it’s – wait for it – by gut instinct. And Henrik Lundqvist was a generational talent.
In the shot-location era, Henrik Lundqvist is responsible for the most Wins Above Replacement (all situations, regular season, via Evolving Hockey) more than another other goalie. It sits at 57.2, more than any other goalie, ever. The next closest is Carey Price. Despite playing only 82 fewer career regular season games, Price comes in at 37.5. For context, Lundqvist’s largest WAR season was in 2009-10 when he put up 7.2 WAR, so that gap is not small. Could another goalie challenge this level of consistent performance at some point down the road? Of course, but in this era no one is remotely close to The King.
You can look to other metrics as well to see just how dominant he was. Specifically, look at GSAA, Quality Starts, and just plain old Save Percentage if you’re curious. It is simply no stretch to say that Henrik Lundqvist is firmly in the elite category of players that the NHL has ever seen.
The phrase “generational talent” sometimes gets thrown about too loosely, especially near draft time. However Henrik Lundqvist is a generational talent. We can all sit here in hindsight and say with mild confidence that Rangers management wasted the prime of his career. But it is Henrik himself who makes that statement possible because without him they would’ve never had a chance in those years.
The number 30 should be retired in the MSG rafters. That is where legends of the sport belong.