Since he entered the league in ’05-06 as a bright eyed rookie, Henrik Lundqvist has been a model of consistency for the Rangers. Having been the backbone of the franchise, he continues to perform at a high level when called upon. Coming off a loss in New Jersey, Lundqvist delivered a big performance stopping 35 shots to lead the Rangers to a 2-1 road win over the Blues.
It was his clutch saves that gave his team a chance. After stoning Scottie Upshall on a breakaway keeping the game tied, Lundqvist finally got some support. It came from Chris Kreider, who notched the game-winner at 4:18 of the third period thanks to an outstanding play from Oscar Lindberg, who while on his knees passed for an open Kreider.
Lundqvist still had to make a few more stops. When he did and his team protected a one-goal lead, he joined Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy as the only goalies to ever win 30 games in 10 different seasons. Since winning 30 his rookie year, the affable Swede who will turn 34 on March 2nd has won 30-or-more in 10 of 11 seasons. The only year he didn’t was the shortened season of ’12-13 when he won 24 in 43 games.
”Growing up, those guys were guys I was watching and now I’m up there with wins,” Lundqvist said. ”To me, it’s just a sign of I’ve been given a chance for a lot of years. I’ve been lucky to play with a lot of good players and been able to have a competitive team every year.”
While it’s also true he has benefited from the shootout, Lundqvist is plenty worthy of becoming the third member. The Rangers’ all-time franchise leader in wins (369) and shutouts (59) is the best goalie in the team’s proud history that’s also included fan favorites Eddie Giacomin and Mike Richter. One day following his career, his number 30 will be joining his predecessors in the Garden rafters on the Chase Bridges for all fans to see.
Without him, the Rangers never rebound to become a Stanley Cup contender. Even with this year’s roster being more flawed, they still have a chance and it hinges on the goalie. That same one who took them as far as he could in 2014. The franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1994. A year many Ranger fans are sick of hearing about.
”Every game you know that you’re going to get his best effort and you’re going to get great preparation and he’s going to give you a chance to win and that’s what you want from your goaltender,” coach Alain Vigneault said of the man who led the Blueshirts to consecutive second round comebacks from 3-1 series deficits advancing to the Conference Finals.
”Those are plays in the game that are momentum changers,” Upshall said. ”That play ends up being the play of the game and when you are on the other side of that it’s tough.”
”I thought the third period was our best tonight,” Vigneault said. ”We made a couple of mistakes early there, a couple of turnovers that led to grade ‘A’ chances, but we were able to make a couple of grade ‘A’ saves and we were able to counter.”