Grant Halverson/Getty Images
It's been said before, and it will be said again, but that doesn't make it any less true. The New York Rangers, quite simply, need Henrik Lundqvist to play well.
In fact, the Rangers probably need Lundqvist to play at his best. The Washington Capitals have a high-powered offense, and Lundqvist will need to pull off some heroics in order to win.
The Rangers rely on Lundqvist for their success. Yes, they play a solid defensive game, and they are a physical team who will lay out the body and block shots.
But none of that matters without Lundqvist. The Rangers are built to win 2-1 games, because they focus so much on checking and tight defense. Without Lundqvist, the Rangers would lose a lot more games.
He needs to be huge. This season, he's done just that. He has a 2.05 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage. In the month of April, he has a .934 save percentage.
If the Rangers want to win this series, and advance toward a Stanley Cup, then Lundqvist has to be superhuman. The Rangers have not shown the consistency needed to win a championship.
But if Lundqvist is at his best, then he can mask all the flaws. A great goaltender can take even a mediocre team to a championship. The Rangers are a good team. With Lundqvist at his best, they could be special.
It may be too much to ask of Lundqvist to continually come up big in big situations. But that's what's needed. If he falters, then the Rangers will not have any chance of beating the Capitals—or any other team.
His performance this season suggests that his play will be on point. If it is, and if he can exceed what he's done, so far, then the rest of the league has to watch out.