The story of Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates is a classic tale of hard work, selflessness, and ice skating. It also includes the legend of a young boy who saved Holland by plugging a hole in the dike with his finger. The boy knew that any small leak would soon become a big one, which would be disastrous for the Netherlands, much of which is below sea level. If the dike failed, the country might be lost.
“Quick as a flash he saw his duty. Throwing away his flowers, the boy clambered up the heights until he reached the hole. His chubby little finger was thrust in, almost before he knew it. The flowing was stopped! ‘Ah!’ he thought, with a chuckle of boyish delight, ‘the angry waters must stay back now! Haarlem shall not be drowned while / am here!” – Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates, Mary Mapes Dodge
For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist is that boy. But he can’t hold it forever. Eventually it’s going to burst.
Lundqvist was able to keep back the angry waters of opposing teams in the regular season just enough for the Rangers to scrape into the playoffs. He weathered the tides of the Washington Capitals in the first round by the narrowest of margins. But the waters of Boston, from the Charles River to the harbor, were much, much angrier. They could not be held back.
“If [the dikes] gave way […], these pretty fields would be all covered with the angry waters. Father always calls them the angry waters: I suppose he thinks they are mad at him for keeping them out so long.”
Unlike the dikes in Holland, the ones in New York failed. The fields were flooded. Madison Square Garden was wiped clear by the pounding sea, the Rangers cast aside and swept out of the playoffs like flotsam on a rocky shore.
For the boy in the story, help came in the morning. There is no help on the horizon for Lundqvist. Nothing John Tortorella or Mike Sullivan have done has rekindled the team’s offense. The Blueshirts’ power play continued its steady decline, worsening each year for the past four seasons. No acquisitions, save for the solid postseason efforts of Derick Brassard, have taken the scoring reins. Many struggled to find the net at all. The Rangers supported their Vezina-winning (and once again nominated) goaltender with their lowest offensive output in five seasons.
No matter how hard he tries, Henrik Lundqvist cannot continue this Sisyphean task of singlehandedly winning games. Like Velma Kelly sings in Chicago every night, just seventeen blocks north of the Garden, he simply can’t do it alone. He admitted as much, asking himself after the second-round series opener against the Bruins, “Can I score? No. Is it frustrating? Yes.” Without offense, he’ll never push that allegorical boulder up the hill. Without offense, the Rangers will never win the Stanley Cup. They’ll be lucky to make it back to the second round of the playoffs.
“Suddenly the boy looked around him in dismay. He had not noticed that the sun was setting: now he saw that his long shadow on the grass had vanished. It was growing dark. He was still some distance from home, and in a lonely ravine, where even the blue flowers had turned to gray.”
No one is coming to help, at least not without some major offseason changes. Will it be the players? The coach? If something doesn’t change, it may be the goaltender. If the team isn’t able to compete, if they aren’t able to address these shortcomings, what becomes of the Vezina-winning goaltender who has but one year left on his contract in New York? He deserves better. New York deserves better. Right now, though, New York doesn’t deserve Henrik Lundqvist.
Before the shadows grow too long on his career, before his well-coiffed locks turn as gray as the flowers in the story, Henrik Lundqvist deserves a championship.