The New York Rangers took a 2-1 series lead on Monday night against the Ottawa Senators. Henrik Lundqvist was a huge reason why, as he shut the door en route to a 39-save shutout.In a 1-0 game, Lundqvist proved how important he truly is to the Rangers.
During the regular season, Lundqvist was a leading favorite for the Vezina Trophy and was named as a potential Hart Trophy finalist. When looking at the parameters of a most valuable player award, Henrik Lundqvist should immediately come to mind. He is the best player at the most important position in hockey. Goaltenders are a team’s last line of defense and are often the foundation on which championships are built.
When looking at the New York Rangers’ success, it is interesting to wonder where the team would have been in the standings without Lundqvist. It is fair to say that the team has one of the best defensive corps in the league and that the Rangers have a well-regarded backup in Martin Biron, but it is impossible to ignore Lundqvist’s earth-shattering numbers.
He posted career highs in wins (39), goals against (1.96) and save percentage (.93o). Lundqvist appeared in 62 games this season. This is a far cry from the 70-plus games that he is used to. With Lundqvist appearing in less games this year, he is fresh and rested. A goaltender that plays at an elite level like Lundqvist is expected to feel some fatigue during an 82-game season.
However these numbers won’t matter if the Rangers can’t impress in the postseason. Up to this point, Henrik has done a great job. Lundqvist is 2-0-1 in the series and has a 1.66 GAA. Lundqvist made some huge saves late especially a heart stopping denial of Senators’ forward Kyle Turris while he was at the net mouth. If the Rangers can win the Stanley Cup, it will be primarily on the back of Lundqvist. Therefore, that makes him a prime contender for the Conn Smythe, especially if he can continue to post lights-out numbers.
The way the Rangers’ last season ended was very tough on Lundqvist. A bad misplay that led to a Jason Chimera goal really turned the series in Washington’s favor and took the wind out of his sails. This year, Lundqvist has been motivated to be the best.
In a New York Times profile, Lundqvist had this to say:
The first three years, it was a lot about proving to everybody else that I should be here, that I should play in this league. But now it’s about proving to myself. I want to be good. I want to play better.
Lundqvist later added: “I’m going to be the best. And that’s that.”
With Lundqvist on the top of his game the Rangers can go far. It may be too early to tell but there is something different about Lundqvist so far and that really bodes well for the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup chances.