There have been a number of amazing goaltenders throughout the history of the New York Rangers, and the Blueshirts' current netminder is on the verge of becoming the greatest of them all.
Before there was Henrik Lundqvist, there was Mike Richter, Eddie Giacomin, Gump Worsley and a bevy of other backstops who made a name for themselves.
Each goalie listed above did some amazing things, but the conversation always boils down to Lundqvist versus Richter. It makes sense given what each accomplished during his career, and Lundqvist is on his way to officially surpassing Richter.
With a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, Lundqvist moved into a tie with Richter for most wins recorded as a Ranger. It is an amazing feat, and it is even more amazing when you consider that Lundqvist accomplished this in 104 fewer games played than Richter.
Once Lundqvist secures victory No. 302, he will hold the title of winningest goaltender in Rangers history. He will make even more history when he secures shutout No. 50, because he will then become the sole holder of the Rangers' record for shutouts.
As you can see, Lundqvist already has a number of amazing accomplishments, but there are some who may be unwilling to call him the team's greatest goaltender.
There are probably a group of hockey purists who will argue that Lundqvist has a ways to go before he can hold the title of greatest goalie in team history. Some will say the wins Lundqvist has picked up in the shootout have padded his win total.
While both of these statements may be true, it isn't Lundqvist's fault. Hockey was drastically different when Richter played, and it was even more different when Giacomin was in the NHL. Players can't control what era they play in, all they can attempt to do is be the best of their era.
Lundqvist is a member of the post-lockout era, and he is arguably one of the best goalies to emerge since 2005-06. Since that time period, he leads all goalies with 301 wins, with Roberto Luongo in second place with 289 wins.
During this time period, Lundqvist has won a Vezina Trophy, and he has also finished as a finalist on four other occasions. His achievements to date are impressive, and for that reason, it is fair to put him ahead of Richter.
Some will argue that Richter should still hold the edge, because of his clutch playoff play that enabled the Rangers to win a Stanley Cup in 1994.
While winning a Stanley Cup is important, Richter was a member of a team that boasted Hall of Fame talent such as Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Glenn Anderson, Sergei Zubov, Alexei Kovalev and numerous others.
The talent on the 1994 Cup team surpasses any team that Lundqvist has been a member of, so it is unfair to use a team award in a head-to-head competition between two individuals.
When looking at the battle between Richter and Lundqvist, it is important to note dominance, or lack thereof.
During his NHL career, Richter never won a Vezina Trophy, and he posted rather average numbers outside of the Blueshirts' 1993-94 Cup campaign. Richter won 42 games that season, but after that season, he only had one season in which he recorded at least 30 wins.
Every other season Richter finished with less than 30 wins, and that is something worthy to note in this debate.
On the other hand, Lundqvist has been consistent throughout his career, and that is what gives him an edge over Richter.
Lundqvist made NHL history by becoming the only goaltender to start his career with seven consecutive 30-plus-win seasons. There have been a number of amazing goaltenders such as Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur and numerous others, but none of them were able to accomplish what Lundqvist was able to.
The streak was snapped during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, in which Lundqvist won 24 of his 43 games started. The Swedish native currently has 25 wins this season, and he is on his way to yet another 30-win season.
It is no question that Richter is an amazing goalie, but Lundqvist has the potential to be a Hall of Fame goalie. He is 32, and if he averages 20 wins a season for the remainder of his contract, he will end up with just shy of 500 wins. It is possible that he averages 30 wins for the next five seasons, and 25 for the remainder of his career, and that would put him in 500-win territory.
Lundqvist certainly has shown that he is an amazing goalie, and earning one more win and shutout will make it official in the Rangers' record book. It will be interesting to see what Lundqvist's numbers are when he retires, because there is a chance he will be in company with some of the NHL's all-time greats.
Stats via NHL.com
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