Henrik Lundqvist
ESNY Graphic

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is nearing the end of a great career, yet many believe he has underachieved. 

Frank Curto

Since the 2005 season, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has led his team on the ice as the number one man.

Henrik has represented the team for 14 seasons, racking up 449 wins while taking the team to three Eastern Conference Final appearances along with one Stanley Cup Final experience.

Lundqvist has reached several milestones throughout his Rangers career, many that seem to be individual awards but are actually highlighted with team stripes.

A few of the Kings accomplishments through his career

  • Oct. 13, 2005, Lundqvist posted his first career NHL win, in a game against the Devils.
  • His first career shutout came on Oct. 17, 2005, against the Florida Panthers. Lundqvist became the first rookie goaltender to record a shutout for the Rangers since John Vanbiesbrouck on Jan. 2, 1985.
  • Lundqvist also became the first Rangers rookie to post 20 wins in a season since Mike Richter recorded 21 in 1990–91. Finishing the season with 30 wins, Hank broke the Rangers rookie goaltending record of 29 wins.
  • On 24 Feb. 2008, Lundqvist became the first Rangers goaltender to record eight shutouts in a single season since Eddie Giacomin in 1970–71.
  •  Feb. 17, 2011, Lundqvist earned his 200th NHL win.
  •  Feb. 11, 2017, Lundqvist recorded his 400th win in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the 12th player in NHL history to earn 400 wins.
  • On 16 Jan. 2018, Lundqvist earned his 20th win of the 2017–18 season and became the only goaltender in NHL history to win at least 20 games in 13 consecutive seasons.

The King has reached 30 or more wins in 11 of his 14 seasons with the Blueshirts. Even more impressive was that he hit the mark in each of his first seven seasons to begin his career.

He won the Vezina Trophy in the 2011-2012 season given to the league’s top goaltender and is a five-time NHL All-Star. Lundqvist has also recorded 63 shutouts in his career, which is second among active goaltenders.

Prior to Lundqvist’s NHL debut, the Rangers had missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons. Henrik brought this club back to the postseason the next 11 out of 12 seasons. During that stretch, he won 405 games, had a goal against average of 2.92 along with a .920 save percentage and 61 shutouts.

Being named the number one goalie is no easy feat in the NHL. Sustaining it for 14 years takes plenty of hard work and determination. Take a look at teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Edmonton Oilers. Their goalie struggles have been no secret nor have their lack of success in the postseason.

Speaking of the postseason, Henrik had some great record-breaking moments. In a 2-1 Eastern Conference win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014 Lundqvist won his fifth consecutive game seven.

That same playoff year he surpassed Mike Richter’s playoff win record of 42 when the Rangers knocked off the Montreal Canadiens and advanced to the Stanley’s Cup Finals.

He has shown his ability to come back from injuries several times in his career.

In a January 2015 contest against the Carolina Hurricanes, he took a shot to the neck. Though he was able to finish the game the injury was more severe than originally thought. A blood vessel in Lundqvist’s neck was damaged, Lundqvist would miss about six weeks of action.

In April of 2016, Lundqvist suffered an eye injury when an errant stick owned by Marc Staal found its way under his goalie mask.

He played almost the entire 2018 season with a knee injury, which was not revealed until the conclusion of the regular season.

The Rangers have not had to look beyond the King since the 2005-06 season began.

Despite all of his accomplishments and accolades, the face of the Rangers has always been regarded as a failure to many in Rangerstown. The constant criticism of the inconsistent play, injuries, and failures to win the big game have haunted him.

This couldn’t be further from the truth and the lack of appreciation for No. 30 is downright stunning.

Henrik has never hoisted the cup

With all of the superb accomplishments Lundqvist has earned over his stellar career, everyone knows what he hasn’t won just as easily.

Henrik has never tasted that sweet champagne from the Stanley Cup. He has come up short more times than it can be mentioned. Lundqvist has made it to the conference final three times in his career but has only reached the Stanley Cup Final once.

In that 2013-14 season, Henrik finally took his team into the Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angelos Kings. The hype didn’t last long as the Kings defeated the Blueshirts four games to one. In the end, Lundqvist and the Rangers have made the postseason in 11 of his 14 seasons, yet such a tremendous number is mired in the frustration that is never taking home the cup.

The names of some of the all-time great players that haven’t won a championship, not just in hockey, but throughout the four majors sports, will surprise many:

  • Ernie Banks, MLB*
  • Charles Barkley, NBA*
  • Pavel Bure, NHL*
  • Dan Marino, NFL*
  • Dick Butkus, NFL*
  • Rod Carew, MLB*
  • Marcel Dionne, NHL*
  • Patrick Ewing, NBA*
  • Mike Gartner, NHL*
  • Ken Griffey, Jr., MLB*
  • Don Mattingly, MLB

*Hall of Fame players

Missed opportunities throughout the sports world are endless. Is winning a championship a true value of how good a player was throughout his career? The above list of 10 players represents each of the four major sports. All have been named to their respective Hall of Fame with the exception of Don Mattingly.

Regardless of missing out of the Cup, Lundqvist has done about everything asked of him. For 14 seasons he has stepped out in front of the Garden faithful and given it his best. The King’s accomplishments throughout his stellar time in New York shouldn’t be thrown aside because he lacks a Stanley Cup.

The Rangers fans old enough to remember the ugly drought in the late 1990/early 2000s (prior to the arrival of Hank) wouldn’t dare dream of traveling back in time. To possess that franchise goaltender in a hockey world full of between-the-pipes uncertainty is something worth its weight in gold.

A Stanley Cup would be great. It would be the ultimate. It would serve as the appropriate symbol to cap Lundqvist’s career with the New York Rangers.

In the end, unfortunately, Henrik Lundqvist may never be fully appreciated until the time comes when he is far removed from lacing up his skates for the Blueshirts, and that remains one of the greatest of hockey shames.

Follow Frank Curto on TWITTER

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at Nyrfc12@gmail.com