Henrik Lundqvist, without argument, has been the backbone of the New York Rangers since he took over the helm in the 2005-06 season as the starting goaltender. He is one of the generation’s best goalies. The Rangers have never been an offensive powerhouse since Lundqvist’s arrival to Broadway, but his performances throughout the years have fans wondering how the Stanley Cup hasn’t returned to New York City.
All fans will remember the brilliant saves, emotional playoff victories and the heart that Lundqvist has put into his game throughout the seasons. With his prime in the rearview mirror and career in its twilight stages, let’s take a look back at his top five seasons as a Ranger (excluding the 2012-13 lockout season).
The 2010-11 season was somewhat of a bounce-back season, as the Rangers lost the final game of the 2009-10 regular season to the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout to miss the playoffs. Lundqvist helped buoy the team right back into the playoff hunt with 36 regular-season victories and his third-best career save percentage (SV%) of .923. He also captured his career-high shutouts of 11 during this season. The Rangers were eliminated in five games by the Washington Capitals, but Lundqvist was a big reason why the Rangers were back in the postseason.
The first full season of Lundqvist’s career is one that will be remembered. At just 23 years old, he started in 53 games for New York and helped lead the team to a 100-point season. He eclipsed 30 wins on the season and suffered just 12 regular-season losses in regulation. Despite losing to the rival New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs in just four games, Lundqvist dominated in his first season.
He ended with a .922 SV% and had a goals-against average (GAA) of just 2.24. On top of his excellent statistics, the “King” finished in ninth place for Hart Trophy voting, third for Vezina Trophy voting and fourth in Calder Trophy voting.
In the 2014-15 season, the Rangers captured first place in the Metropolitan Division with a whopping 113 points. This season for Lundqvist is one that involved injury and what-ifs, but it was still a great season for him. He went down with a vascular injury after taking a puck directly to the throat in a January game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Before the injury and Cam Talbot’s heroic emergence, Lundqvist lit up the stat sheet with 30 total wins in 46 games played.
Despite not playing in 36 games for the Rangers that season, he still ended in fifth place for Vezina Trophy voting. The Rangers came close to another Stanley Cup bid, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 in a disappointing showing at Madison Square Garden. (from ‘Rangers Are Shut Out in Game 7 as Lightning Reach Finals,’ New York Times, 05/29/2015) Despite the disappointing end to the season, Lundqvist was very close to bringing his team back to the Stanley Cup.
The confetti coming down on the Madison Square Garden ice after the Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 for a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final is a moment that Rangers fans will cherish for years to come. Lundqvist continued to be a brick wall for the Rangers, despite the team having offensive challenges. Lundqvist managed to maintain a .920 SV% while having a 2.36 GAA.
Even though the Los Angeles Kings crippled the Rangers’ hopes in five games in the Stanley Cup Final, Lundqvist consistently kept his team in each and every game.
There’s only one word to describe this season for Lundqvist: magical. He stole the season and led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final and his statistics were purely mind-boggling through 62 starts in 2011-12. He amassed 39 regular season wins, .930 SV%, 1.97 GAA and eight shutouts. The fact that the Rangers weren’t able to make it to the Stanley Cup Final is disappointing in its own right. Lundqvist had a phenomenal season that finished in pure disappointment as Adam Henrique crushed the Rangers’ playoff run with an overtime goal in Game 6. The Rangers’ keeper captured the Vezina Trophy for the first time in his career and came in third place for Hart Trophy voting.
Lundqvist will be remembered as one of the most beloved Rangers ever to put on the red, white and blue sweater. His performances throughout the years can be categorized as driven, emotional and above all else, phenomenal.
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Sophomore journalism major at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Business director and play-by-play broadcaster for WMUC Sports. Former intern for the Anton Media Group.