5 Biggest Reasons New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist Is a Hall-of-Fame Goaltender
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." From Henry IV, Part II by William Shakespeare (1597)
A person with great responsibilities from the classic 16th century play, King Henry was constantly tormented by issues which included strained family relationships and the possibility of a rebellion against his throne.
In the 21st century, King Henrik has no such problems.
Henrik Lundqvist, the man who rules the crease for the New York Rangers, is in the midst of a truly quintessential career. A franchise netminder with all-world ability, he just happens to be the backbone of a team with its sights set firmly on Lord Stanley's Cup.
But is it too early to proclaim the Blueshirts' royal goaltender great enough to stand amongst the NHL elite?
Is it too early to say that he will ultimately earn his rightly place in the Hall of Fame?
The short answer is no.
Lundqvist is from Are, Sweden, a far-away town that's just 220 miles south of the Arctic Circle. But every season, he's getting closer and closer to hockey immortality.
Read on to find out the five biggest reasons why.
Famous quotes from Henry IV, Part II, some of which you may be familiar with, are key components of this article.
He's Got the Knack for Putting Up the Numbers
"There is a history in all men's lives."
This certainly holds true for Henrik Lundqvist. When it comes to getting the job done year after year, there's no goaltender more consistent than the King. He's posted at least 30 wins per year for all seven years he's been in the league. That's an NHL record that he can continue to build upon.
So far, he's posted 252 regular season wins in total.
And the numbers keep adding up.
43 career shutouts.
A .927 save percentage.
A 2.27 career goals against average
Stellar stats to be sure. But get ready for more.
According to Brian Cazeneuve of Sports Illustrated:
Lundqvist's record in shootouts, an apt barometer of goaltending skill, is a robust 41- 27. His .763 save percentage in 262 shootout attempts is the highest ever among goalies who have faced at least 125 shots.
Plus, his penchant for turning back penalty shots led to his save of the season, a pad stop on Flyers winger Danny Briere with 19.6 seconds left in the Winter Classic. During the game, microphones from HBO, which was recording the players for 24/7, caught Philly sniper Claude Giroux pleading, "Henrik, let me score one tonight. Just one."
Now, just project the King's credentials out for another seven years or so and you've got legitimate Hall-of-Fame numbers, folks.
He's Got the Awards and the Accolades
"I came, saw, and overcame."
Throughout his career, the King has overcome his competitors to win a multitude of much-deserved awards and accolades.
Vezina Trophy winner in 2012 (and nominated 4 times for the award)
Nominated for the Hart Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player
Nominated for the Ted Lindsay Award as the Most Valuable player, as voted by the players themselves
Three appearances in the NHL All-Star Game (2009, 2011 and 2012)
Gold Medal winner for Sweden in the 2006 Olympics
And he holds the Winter Olympics record for consecutive minutes without allowing a goal: 172 minutes and 34 seconds (2006 to 2010).
This King knows how to bring home the awards and accolades.
And if he keeps on doing it, the Hall of Fame will come calling.
He's Got the Durability
"Your lordship, though not clean past your youth, hath yet some smack of age in you, some relish of the saltness of time."
Henrik Lundqvist has some age in him. But he is maturing like a fine wine.
The 30 year old is averaging 67 games per season since coming into the league in 2005. He's played 70 or more games four times, with a career-high 73 matches in 2009-2010
He is undoubtedly a workhorse of royal proportions.
And having a quality backup like Martin Biron will keep the King fresh for the postseason, while helping to increase his durability even further.
According to Larry Brooks in the New York Post, Lundqvist said the following:
As a goalie, you don’t get the choice of when you want to be there for your team. The most important thing for a goalie is to be there when you’re needed by the team, not when it might be easiest for you.
It’s exciting for me to know that I can come through when the team needs me. That’s what this game is about, being there and competing for your teammates.
That's what durability is all about. And that's what leads to the Hall of Fame.
He's Got the Competitiveness
"The King himself is to be feared as the lion."
He never gives up on a puck.
And he hates to lose. Period.
After the Rangers were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in last season's playoffs, Lundqvist told Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News:
It’s gonna hurt for a couple of weeks. It motivates me a lot to work on my game, come back and get better. I’ll sit down. Look at the things I did. The things I need to improve. Things that happen come over you. You get frustrated. Then you try to think about the good things. It’s about the ride too, you can’t just think of the final goal. I’m just hoping one day I’m gonna lift that Cup. That’s my dream.
"Our backbone," Dan Girardi proudly proclaimed in the same article.
The compliments didn't stop there.
Cazeneuve also wrote:
The pictures of the victory parade that hang along the walls at the team's training facility steal Lundqvist's easily-distracted mind each day at practice. City Hall, confetti and a million New Yorkers. "To do that in New York, wow, I can't even...." He pauses, as if searching for the right words. "Sorry," he says, "I was just thinking about it."
That's what goaltenders do, when they're headed to the Hall of Fame.
He's Got the Technique
"When we mean to build, we first survey the plot, then draw the model"
Henrik Lundqvist has drawn the model and built it—based on a technique that has stood the test of time.
Here's more from the Sports Illustrated article by Brian Cazeneuve:
His deep position in the crease makes him tough to beat on wraparounds and helps him to spot play makers such as Sidney Crosby, who like to feed swooping wingers from behind the net. Lundqvist has also worked this year on keeping his glove up to prevent high short side shots from sneaking through. He doesn't care for obstacles in front of his face—whether opponents' sticks or his own equipment—so he'll sometimes bonk softer shots away with his head, like a soccer player, rather than use his blocker. Coaches would prefer Lundqvist take some heat off his defensemen by corralling more of the pucks that wind around the boards, but he is a notoriously poor puck handler. He puts it more succinctly: "I suck." He prefers discretion to, say, the mad adventures of Patrick Roy.
His reflexes and his post-to-post coverage are excellent. His wide, knock-kneed stance, almost an upside-down V, makes him look bigger than his 6'1" frame even as he crouches, and because he interprets plays so efficiently, he rarely overcompensates for a deke or lateral pass. "I've always stood really low," Lundqvist says.
But to the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist has stood tall for years. And if he continues to do so, you can rest assured that one day, he'll earn his rightfully royal place in the NHL Hall of Fame.