Eastern Conference Finals 2012: Rangers Need Henrik Lundqvist to Shine in Game 6

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IMay 25, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 06:  Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers in action during the NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on January 6, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Rangers defeated the Penguins 3-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist is considered by many as the best goaltender in hockey, but his reputation will take a hit if he doesn't carry his team to the Stanley Cup Finals this season.

Lundqvist is about to play the biggest game of his career Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on the road against the New Jersey Devils.

Per NHL.com:

"I think we just know we have to approach this game the same way we've been approaching each game," Lundqvist said. "We can't put more pressure on ourselves. We always want to win, we always want to play a desperate game, but you don't want to go out there and try to do too much or get too excited. We need to find a good balance and just go out there and try to play as good as we can."

Lundqvist was nominated for the Vezina and Hart Trophies this year for his outstanding play in net for the Rangers throughout the regular season, and may finally earn some respect by winning one or both of the awards.

For all of his outstanding regular season success however, Lundqvist hasn't been able to dominate in the playoffs. He has a career playoff record of 25-29.

Lundqvist can silence his critics by leading the Rangers to a series comeback against the Devils to make the Cup Final.

New York's offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders in the Devils series, and many of the team's most dangerous forwards like Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan have struggled to score.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers defends against the New Jersey Devils in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 23, 2012 in New York City.  (P
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Lundqvist cannot afford to allow the Devils to jump out to an early Game 6 lead, because if that happens, it's unlikely that the Blueshirts will be able to mount a comeback to save their season.

Lundqvist has to shine in Game 6 and give his teammates confidence that their goaltender is ready for the challenge.

If the Rangers lose Game 6 and their season ends, Lundqvist's reputation as the game's best goaltender will take a hit.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.