Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been the New York Rangers’ most important player in the regular season and playoffs, and for what it’s worth, it’s not even close. As they prepare to take on the Los Angeles Kings, it is imperative he not only continue his stellar play, but in many regards, even raise it.
The Rangers have a deep forward core, but unlike the Kings’ previous opponents they don’t have a legitimate superstar. All due respect to Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan, but there’s no Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf or Patrick Kane on the Rangers’ roster. The defensively strong Kings will push the Rangers’ forwards around and make their inconsistent offense have to work for every chance. Lundqvist will have to prevent goals, because his offense surely won’t be scoring at a high clip.
While the Rangers’ defensive corps is strong, the Kings possess a deep, skilled group of forwards and will be getting their scoring chances. Ryan McDonagh is a stud, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi are defensive aces, and the rest of the Rangers’ defense are no slouches, but the Kings’ depth is second to none. It will be up to Lundqvist to nullify these chances and get in the heads of the Kings’ shooters like no other goalie has in these playoffs.
While the Rangers face a tall task in beating the Kings, having the best player in the series, who happens to be a Vezina-winning goalie, makes the task a little less arduous. Lundqvist will need to steal at least two … likely three … possibly four games for the Rangers to win the series, and with it, their first Stanley Cup in 20 years.