New York Rangers fans have been lucky to see some of hockey’s greatest pass through the organization. One of them is on the team right now, and he wears number 30.
By Chris Wengert
With Henrik Lundqvist in goal, the final seconds were ticking down during the 2nd period of the New York Rangers game on Sunday.
The Ottawa Senators were applying offensive pressure and the Rangers were exhausted after a long shift. Dylan McIlrath fell on the puck in the high slot and players collapsed towards him, trying to gain possession.
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That’s when Dave Dziurzynski snapped a surprise shot at Lundqivst.
Without hesitation Lundqvist dove to his left and made a great glove save. With a goalie of lesser skill, that shot is a goal, and the momentum of the game completely changes in the Sens favor.
Perched in the 400 sections of Madision Square Garden, fans gasped at Lundqvist’s acrobatics (the video does no justice to the save).
That’s when it hit me:
Right now I’m watching one of the best (if not, THE best) goaltenders in franchise history, and there will come a day when Henrik Lundqvist is not the goaltender of the New York Rangers anymore.
The statement may seem obvious, but there are times we all take Hank’s play for granted. And how can we not from time to time?
When you see this level of excellence night in and night out, you may come to expect it.
Henrik Lundqvist was drafted in the 7th round to the New York Rangers and it was former Rangers Assistant GM Don Maloney, not Glen Sather, who was ultimately responsible for crowning the King in New York.
Back in June of 2014, Don Maloney was asked about drafting Lundqvist. He had this to say to reporter Craig Morgan of Fox Sports:
“It was dumb, blind luck,” said Maloney, now the Coyotes GM. “I liked his brother. He was a forward in the same draft. I didn’t even know who Henrik Lundqvist was.”
Lundqvist’s presence helped the team move past the organization’s “dark ages” from 2000-2004, when upper management threw money at every washed up has-been willing to take a big paycheck. The list included Bobby Holik, Eric Lindros, and Pavel Bure, just to name a few.
Fast forward to today, and the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has taken the Rangers to three Eastern Conference Finals, and a Stanley Cup Final.
A lot of this success can be credited to Lundqvist’s work ethic. Former Rangers goalie Cam Talbot was asked about Henrik’s habits. Talbot had this to say in a previous interview from July 2014 on the Rangers YouTube Channel:
“You see how much Hank competes, even just in practice. He gets scored on in practice and he’s just as mad as when he gets scored on in a game,”
So how do Lundqvist’s stats match up to those of the greats? Well, if his career ended today, Henrik’s stats in goals against average (2.25) and save percentage (.921) would beat both Patrick Roy (.918/2.27) and Mike Richter (.904/2.89).
To be fair, Richter played on some terrible Ranger teams. However, in a year-to-year comparison, Lundqvist’s stats are never bested by Richter.
Hank has not only improved how the Rangers are perceived on the ice, but also off of the ice. He is always dressed to perfection, and has made fashion a trend in the Rangers locker room. Lundqvist has made many appearances on talk shows, his Jimmy Fallon guitar performance being one of his most well-known:
Lundqvist has helped bring credibility to not just the Rangers organization, but the entire NHL. Not because of fighting or scandal, but Lundqvist’s excellence has been the one attribute that has helped bring hockey towards the limelight.
Every Ranger fan wishes that they could go back in history to watch players like Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Richter, and Adam Graves. These players embodied class, hard work, and were involved in some of the greatest moments in Rangers history.
We should all cherish Henrik Lundqvist’s excellence while he is still playing, because we are watching a player who may very well have his number 30 hanging in the rafters of Madison Square Garden one day.[su_button url=”https://elitesportsny.com/2015/12/07/valuable-new-york-rangers-dan-boyle-dylan-mcilrath/” background=”#000080″ size=”10″ wide=”yes” center=”yes” radius=”0″]NEXT: More Valuable To Rangers: Boyle Or McIlrath?[/su_button]