For the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist must find greatness.
By Robby Sabo
It’s no secret what the formula to success is in this day and age of sports fandom.
Long gone are the days of 162 meaning something.
Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams hit .344 with 521 home runs and 1,839 runs batted in during his 19-year illustrious career with the Boston Red Sox. The man is considered a legend, an immortal, and even part-god in New England.
All of this is true, despite Williams never capturing one World Series title.
During those much simpler times, Major League Baseball featured a grueling regular season schedule that meant everything. There were no playoffs, nor heavy social media pressure to win a championship.
Nowadays, the regular season stud is more of a sad character than great hero – despite how other worldly he is during his career.
It’s just that simple.
What we remember during today’s version of sport are those conquering heroes who come up with their biggest performances on the brightest of stages. The smarter onlooker, of course, still realizes it takes a team to win a title, not one player (unless you’re speaking of the NBA).
Regardless, the superstar must thrive during the second-season, or else.
New York Rangers stud goalie Henrik Lundqvist knows this all too well. Due to the fact he’s been one of the better goaltenders since he first graced the NHL with his presence in 2005 and hasn’t yet sipped champagne from Lord Stanley’s Cup, he still belongs in the class of Alex Ovechkin instead of Sidney Crosby; Patrick Ewing instead of Michael Jordan.
Speaking of the NBA, the Lundqvist-Ewing similarity discussion has been raging on since New York Post’s Mike Vacarro so suddenly brought it to the table a couple of weeks ago.
While the folks of Rangers Town would love nothing more than to burn any evidence of that story, the cold hard fact that the comparison is spot on is so evident.
Both guys played the role as face of the team. Both guys played the most important position on the team (center in the 1990s was critical). Both guys have enjoyed an era of dominance that can be described as enjoyable.
The one thing neither could do – so far for Hank – is capture that elusive title for the city.
We know all the stats for The King in elimination games.
Dating back to 2013 playoffs, Henrik Lundqvist’s stats in elimination games: 11-2 with 1.38 GAA and .963 SV%. #NYR
— Ville Lampinen (@VilleLampinen) May 26, 2015
Those aren’t just silly marks, they’re absolutely mind-boggling.
In addition, the Rangers have sported a 14-3 record as a team when facing elimination during their last 17 postseason games which includes a perfect 3-0 mark this season.
Ah, but where it gets interesting is who lies on the other side. Former Rangers Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle surely know New York’s locker room. They know how tough this team can act when desperation is in the air, and they’ll surely be spreading the gospel of “don’t give them any hope” across the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room tonight just prior to Game 6.
What also scares Blueshirts faithful is the fact that no team in recent memory has clicked this fluidly offensively in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jon Cooper’s philosophies and transitional brilliance has led to an offense who’s made the Rangers blueline look clueless at times.
Due to these unmitigated disasters at times, Lundqvist needs to come up with a gem. A legendary calling-card that will live in hockey heaven until the end of time.
It’s not good enough for Lundqvist to just be good tonight. It won’t even suffice if he’s great. For the New York Rangers to force a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Friday night in the biggest, baddest and greatest city in the world, Lundqvist will have to tell his boys “I got you tonight.”
If Lundqvist comes out with a game that resembles “throwing the rest of the team on his shoulders,” it’ll breathe life and belief across all four-lines and the three-defensive pairings.
Tampa will be fired up and charging early. Tonight is Lundqvist’s tonight to say “no, it is now my time.” The eye-test must match the stats in Game 6.
If it doesn’t, well, then we’ll appreciate him like we do Patrick Ewing, which is fond, but not legendary.
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