Lundqvist to have open heart surgery, an emotional time for Rangers great

In more stunning news, Henrik Lundqvist revealed that he will have open heart surgery. The former Rangers all-time great posted a tweet detailing the upcoming procedure.

The 38-year old Swede needs an Aortic Valve replacement, Aortic Root and Ascending Aortic replacement. He still remains positive despite this potentially life changing obstacle. He has a great attitude. It’s admirable the way he’s approaching this.

It’s hard to believe Lundqvist had a heart condition throughout his brilliant 16-year NHL career. A former seventh round pick by the Rangers in the 2000 NHL Draft, he won 30 or more games his first seven seasons and 11 of the first 12. The backbone of the franchise totaled a team record 459 wins (2nd active), which ranks sixth on the all-time NHL list. He also established franchise marks in games played (887), minutes (51,818), shots against (25,610), saves (23,509) and shutouts (64).

A Vezina winner in ’11-12 when he won a career best 39 games with career highs in goals-against-average (1.97 GAA) and save percentage (.930) with eight shutouts, he finished third for the Hart Trophy. It was his splendid goaltending under former coach John Tortorella that allowed the Rangers to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. What made it special is they were a year removed from squeaking into the playoffs and losing in the first round to the powerful Capitals led by Alexander Ovechkin.

After coming back to edge the Senators in seven games and avenge the loss to Washington by prevailing in seven, they fell short in the team’s first Eastern Conference Final appearance since ’97. A gut wrenching six game series loss to the Hudson Rival Devils. It wouldn’t be the last time they reached the Final Four. The biggest highlight coming two years later under coach Alain Vigneault when they eliminated the Flyers in seven and then dug deep to rally back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Penguins in an emotional second round.

They did it by going into Pittsburgh and winning convincingly in Game Five. Then faced adversity with the death of Martin St. Louis’ Mom France. After attending the funeral service, they won an emotional game on Mother’s Day with St. Louis scoring the first goal in Game Six. The Garden shook. They would complete the franchise’s first ever 3-1 comeback by edging the Pens 2-1 with St. Louis setting up close friend Brad Richards for a power play goal late in the second period of Game Seven. Lundqvist did the rest in a nerve racking third where it felt like an eternity.

They defeated the Canadiens in six to win the Conference Final. It wouldn’t have been possible without an acrobatic Lundqvist save to rob Thomas Vanek. The game’s only goal came from Dominic Moore off a Brian Boyle set up from behind the net. A near flawless third allowed Lundqvist to earn the 1-0 shutout win before a loud MSG that again shook.

In their first Stanley Cup appearance in 20 years since they last won, they came up short in a closely fought five game series against the Kings. The difference was LA’s resiliency. Three times on home ice, they came back from deficits and won Games 1-2 and 5 in sudden death with Alec Martinez playing the ultimate hero. It was a cruel ending for the Rangers.

A year later, they nearly returned. But a bad third period on home ice in a do or die Game Seven allowed the Lightning to advance to a Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks. Little did we know that would be the final time those teams made it so far.

The bitter end came two years later in a six game second round defeat against the Senators. A very winnable series. There’s nothing more to say.

The past few years have been tough on Lundqvist. He saw his playing time dramatically reduced under coach David Quinn. The emergence of backup Alex Georgiev and heir apparent Igor Shesterkin made it hard on the prideful veteran who was used to a heavier workload.

It had to be heartbreaking. At the very least due to a Shesterkin injury, Lundqvist got into two of the Rangers’ postseason games against the Hurricanes. Though he didn’t win either, he gave the team a chance. Simply put, they were overmatched. Carolina swept the best-of-five Play In Series.

Knowing the writing was on the wall, Lundqvist informed teammates that he had played his last game for the Blueshirts following Game Two. He was bought out during the first period last Fall. Eventually, he landed on his feet with the Caps signing him on the first day of free agency to replace departed vet Braden Holtby. He was real excited for the next chapter and posted some cool videos on his Twitter account. It was nice to see.

When we learned recently that he would miss the upcoming 2021 season, it was a bummer. I was really looking forward to seeing Lundqvist in Caps threads. It would’ve been interesting to see how he did working with Ilya Samsonov. Instead, here we are a week later wondering if we’ll ever see Lundqvist in a number 35 uniform playing another NHL game. It’s sad.

The only thing we can do is wish him the very best and hope for a full recovery. His health is first over anything. This is serious stuff. My heart goes out to him. God bless 🙏 our beloved Number 30. Forever King Henrik.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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