There is no shortage of NHL talent that has retired from the game without ever winning a Stanley Cup. Many of whom never even dance on the league’s biggest stage in a Stanley Cup Final.
A Club of Many
Players like Henrik and Daniel Sedin may never get another chance after losing in the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 unless they get dealt to a contender. The question is would they be willing to separate to do it, and how would the twins feel about only one getting there? It is unlikely both could be moved, let alone together.
Jarome Iginla is another player who is running out of chances in spite of a deadline deal that sent him to Los Angeles for a shot.
The Kings missed the playoffs.
How much longer can Roberto Luongo stay at the top, and will he ever get a chance with the young Panthers or is another trade his only shot? If it is, would he find a team willing to start an aging netminder or would he be relegated to a backup role? And will that be enough?
As Roberto Luongo is getting older, his role with the Florida Panthers will likely change heading into next season.
— The Rat Trick (@FanSidedTheRat) April 19, 2020
At 38, his best years are no longer ahead of him and his hefty price tag, injury history, and lengthy contract ($4,533,333 a year through 2021-22) won’t help his cause. That’s a pricey flyer on a veteran with a lot of wear on the tires.
When that contract expires, he’ll be 43 years old.
While Jaromir Jagr, Chris Chelios, and a few others have succeeded beyond that age, it is very different for a goalie given the endurance and flexibility that the position requires. There is no sheltering a starting netminder with decreased minutes, it’s 60 minutes or bust.
So many greats never get one shot, let alone two, but Henrik Lundqvist is doing everything in his power to make sure he and his New York Rangers get another shot to raise the Cup.
Is Henrik Lundqvist the greatest NHL goalie ever to not win a Stanley Cup? Only Curtis Joseph has more playoff wins without a Cup. pic.twitter.com/PfO6hFpL6X
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 3, 2020
He could pass Curtis Joseph for the most playoff wins without a Cup well before the playoffs are over, but Lundqvist will be looking to make his time on that list short. This time, he’ll be looking for a different ending.
History vs. Destiny
One has to wonder, how many more shots Hank is going to get.
From his very first season with the Blueshirts, they knew he was special. He led the team to their first playoff berth in seven years making it to the Quarterfinals in 2006. Since then they have been to the First Round once, the Quarterfinals and Semifinals three times each, the Conference Finals twice, and the Stanley Cup Final once in 2014.
In fact, in his tenure as the Rangers crease commander, the Rangers have only missed the playoffs once (2010).
Lundqvist was nominated for the Calder Trophy in his first season in 2005-06 as well as the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy. In the years since he has garnered six more Hart nominations, nine more Vezina nominations (last year was the first year he was not one of the nominees), and four Lady Byng Memorial Trophy nominations. His only Vezina win came in 2011-12. He has also played in three All-Star games in his career.
King Henrik currently sits in second among active netminders in Wins (405), Shutouts (61), games played (742), and minutes (43,629). Luongo leads all four categories. Currently, Lundqvist sits alone at the top of the playoff wins list (61), but Marc-Andre Fleury is only one game behind and could feasibly tie it tomorrow night if the Penguins eliminate the Capitals.
Henrik Lundqvist's recovered from tough Gm2 & is enjoying some rare quality goal support. He's tops on this list (for the time being anyway) pic.twitter.com/0qPDuY3pSy
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) May 5, 2020
Time has Lundqvist in its sights now and the chase is on, it will eventually catch him as it does every athlete, but he has the heart of a lion and the ability to give his best and demand the same from the team in front of him. A true leader who is beloved by fans and teammates alike, Lundqvist honors that iconic blue sweater every time he steps on the ice.
While he struggled with inconsistency and injuries throughout the season, Lundqvist has battled back playing some of his best and most consistent hockey since the curtain went up on the postseason. He may not have a lot of time left to claim his crown, but as long as there is one more game to play Lundqvist will be there leaving everything he has on the ice.
Henrik Lundqvist now with a cool .937 save percentage for the playoffs. Not too bad for a guy who I was told had lost his fastball this year
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 5, 2020
We all know his history, but Lundqvist is still chasing his destiny.
The road hasn’t been easy as they faced off against an oft otherworldly netminder in Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the First Round.
While Price put up a great effort, Lundqvist won the battle.
Lundqvist had 11 shots get by him while the Habs netminder allowed 12. That makes their level of play seem fairly even, but one key difference is shots on goal. Lundqvist fought through 206 total shots, while Price only had to track 179.
Hank finished with 1.70 goals against average (GAA), and a .947 save percentage (SV%), while Price finished with a 1.86 GAA and .933 SV%.
It was a goalie duel that featured two of the best in the game, and both did everything they could to steal games night after night. No team was truly out of any game as Game 3 was the only one that featured a lead of two or more goals that didn’t include an empty netter.
This series was won on the back of Lundqvist’s consistent play, as this team while studded with star power relies on their stalwart netminder. As with so many teams, the goalie is so often the team’s identity, where he goes, so goes the team.
In that First Round matchup, Lundqvist effectively rewrote the narrative on his troubles versus the Canadiens, a team that he had compiled a career regular-season record of 14-17-3 with a .898 SV% and 2.87 GAA.
Suffice it to say, Lundqvist slew the dragon pitching a shutout in Game 1 and winning three more by holding onto one-goal leads for his Rangers.
A .947 save percentage. A 1.70 goals against average. Yeah, Henrik Lundqvist had a pretty good first round. https://t.co/QW2OTT9gnm pic.twitter.com/Vx9h7ILI94
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) April 25, 2020
The Blueshirts needed spectacular, and King Henrik delivered.
Don’t Stop Believing
Lundqvist is currently locked in battle with Erik Karlsson (though an injury made worse in Game 4 has perhaps jeopardized his playoffs) and his Ottawa Senators. The series is all locked up with each team winning two games on their home ice.
So far, the series has been an all-out physical battle producing perhaps the best hockey of the playoffs so far.
A double-overtime stunner went to the Sens in Game 2 on the back of J.G. Pageau‘s four-goal night, and many teams would head home feeling demoralized after a 6-5 loss that put them down 2-0. But Lundqvist and his teammates knew the battle would take on a different tone once the lights came up on their sheet of ice at Madison Square Garden.
“You know, there’s no reason to go back over it now. I don’t want to waste any more energy on that game. That one’s over. It’s all about the next one.” ~Henrik Lundqvist (New York Post)
While the Rangers have been the best road team this season, they shined the brightest on Broadway in this series. They had an all-out effort from the top of the lineup to the bottom with both wins ending with a 4-1 result, and one chased netminder as Craig Anderson was replaced by Mike Condon for the third period in Game 4.
"I think it starts with believing in ourselves." - @HLundqvist30 talks about the #Blueshirts evening the series with Ottawa. pic.twitter.com/CDrDjA384q
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) May 5, 2020
With Mats Zuccarello, Brady Skjei, Michael Grabner, and Mika Zibanejad leading the charge and a slew of other contributors making sure to add the run support for Lundqvist this team appears poised to give the Sens fits in Game 5. They have a four line attack and one of the best netminders ready to do whatever it takes.
As the series turns back to the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, the Rangers will draw on a strength from the regular season and look to pull off a heist. If they can get the job done, they’ll send it back to MSG with a chance to clinch and punch their ticket back to the Eastern Conference Finals to face off against either the Penguins (perhaps without Sidney Crosby) or the Capitals (with Braden Holtby struggling).
With the way the Rangers and Lundqvist are playing at the moment, they have a legitimate chance to get back to the league’s big show. Lundqvist will undoubtedly do everything in his power to silence any doubters and escape the fate of so many before him, and many, many more that will follow.
There is one word that sums up who Henrik Lundqvist is and that is focus.
The netminder has tunnel vision when it comes to what is on the path ahead and he can quickly forget anything that he’s left behind. He knows that the only path to a Stanley Cup is in front of him, and looking back at any perceived failures or setbacks will just distract from the job at hand.
Winning the next game.
You can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future, so you focus on one shot, then one period, then one game until you accomplish that one goal. A Stanley Cup win.
King Henrik wants the crown, and he just might have the team in front of him to do it.