Hockey historians, experts and pundits all agree that the most important part of a hockey team is its goaltender. A team follows its goaltender onto the ice and they are often thought of as the team’s second leader after the team captain.
If you asked most fans who the heart of the New York Rangers is, many—myself included—would answer Henrik Lundqvist. Up to this point, the success of the New York Rangers has fallen squarely on the back of Lundqvist.
He has carried the burden of the team and the city of New York for five years now. He has been with the team at high points including playoff victories over the Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils and the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers. Henrik was nominated for not one, but two trophies this year and could he walk away with multiple pieces of hardware?
When I think of the Hart Trophy, I think of its phonetic pronunciation of H-E-A-R-T. The Hart Trophy is known as the MVP award for the player who is most valuable to their team.
I am a firm believer that more goalies should win the Hart Trophy. It is unfortunate that those who vote for awards such as these don’t view goalies as important in the debate. Not many goalies have won the award recently. The last one to win the award was Jose Theodore, and the last before that was Dominek Hasek, who won the award back to back. I realize that scorers are important to their team, but isn’t a goal prevented as important as one scored?
Forwards and goal scorers are measured by their shots and goals. Goaltenders are justly measured by their shots faced, goals against average and save percentage. Couldn’t the two statistical spectra be viewed as one
The Hart Memorial Trophy is defined as “the oldest and most prestigious individual award in hockey.” It is awarded annually to the “player adjudged most valuable to his team” in the National Hockey League. It is the top individual award for a player to receive. In short, it is the MVP award.
However, most people correlate an MVP trophy with being the best player. Evgeni Malkin is probably the best player in the league and will likely win the Ted Lindsay Award, which is handed out to the best player as determined by the players.
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. Names like Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek are synonymous with greatness in the modern era.
When looking at the 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.
It should be a given that after being nominated for the Hart Trophy it is all but determined that Lundqvist will win the Vezina. 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.
The Rangers have motored along so far in the postseason and Lundqvist is a huge reason why. If Lundqvist can carry the team even further there is a chance he could win some more hardware including the highly coveted Stanley Cup.