For years many fans have openly mocked Henrik Lundqvist’s nickname of King, but a performance in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins may finally silence detractors once and for all. It was the sixth Game 7 of King Henrik's career, and with a 2-1 victory it was his fifth consecutive win in a Game 7.
Lifetime he is now 5-1-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and a .955 save percentage. Needless to say, those are some pretty impressive numbers.
With the win, Lundqvist became the only goalie to ever win five Game 7s in a row. Patrick Roy didn't do it. Martin Brodeur didn't do it. Ken Dryden didn't do it. [Insert famous goalie's name] didn't do it, and so on and so forth.
You could argue that each respective netminder's team was good enough to get the job done before a Game 7, and that would be a fair statement.
Getting back to the point at hand, Lundqvist has completely turned around the Rangers' fortunes with a victory, so is it finally time to put the notion that he isn't a playoff goalie to rest?
As mentioned above, Lundqvist's moniker has been a target of opposing fans and critics for years. Common refrains include "King of what? He has no Cup!"
After a bad loss or a series in which the New York Rangers failed to get the job done, Lundqvist was openly serenaded with tweets and comments that turned his regal status of King into Queen among other things.
All of this speaks to the notion that Lundqvist is a great regular season goalie, but one who can't get it done in the playoffs. When Lundqvist struggled early this season, fans completely killed the Rangers over his contract extension, and it wasn't a pretty sight in "Twitterland."
Lifetime in the playoffs, Lundqvist is 38-43 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. On the surface, these numbers look average and would reinforce the notion that Lundqvist is an average goaltender who can't kick it into a higher gear come playoff time.
However, the Henrik Lundqvist of 2014 is vastly different than the youngster who got his feet wet during three playoff games back in 2006. He has grown as a goalie, and for the most part he has generally had lights out numbers.
The problem has been that the Blueshirts have not supported him offensively, yet he is left holding the bag of blame.
The same conundrum has often baffled great baseball pitchers. The New York Mets' Matt Harvey could pitch eight amazing innings in which he gives up two runs, but still walk away with a loss.
But at the end of the day there will be some that say, Harvey needs to be perfect because of X, Y and Z.
In hockey a goalie like Lundqvist has usually given up two goals or less based on his career average, but the Blueshirts' anemic offense hasn't supported him.
It took amazing goaltending to steal the Rangers' latest series, because the Blueshirts scored a total of 15 goals against the Penguins. Over seven games that equates to an average of 2.14 goals per game, and that is very low for a playoff team.
Lundqvist's goals against average during the series was 1.85, so in this instance it was good enough. Part of the reason his numbers were so good during the series as a whole was because of an amazing three- game win streak.
To complete the 3-1 series comeback, Lundqvist had to be amazing, and that is what he was. In the last three games, Lundqvist has three wins with a goals against average of 1.00, and he stopped 102 of 105 shots for a .971 save percentage.
Lundqvist's margin for error was slim, and that is how it usually is for King Hank. For the majority of his career he hasn't had goal support, and the best examples are over the last four seasons. Here's a look at Lundqvist's career playoff numbers juxtaposed with the Blueshirts' offensive production.
|Season||Games Played||NYR Goals Scored||NYR Goals Per Game||Lundqvist Goals Allowed||Lundqvist Shots Faced||Lundqvist Saves||Lundqvist Save Percentage||Lundqvist GAA|
As you can see, it isn't all on Henrik when the Rangers lose, because it is usually all on him when they win. It may be a bit confusing on the first read so I will explain it again.
When the Rangers have come short in the playoffs, it has usually been the Blueshirts' inability to score goals. When they have been successful, they have failed to score goals, but Lundqvist has stood on his head in a god-like way.
As you have seen during these playoffs, Henrik Lundqvist is the real deal. He is standing on his head, making big saves and getting the job done when the Rangers have their backs against the wall. If the Rangers can be victorious in their next series in less than seven games, it is fair to say Lundqvist and the Rangers will make a serious run at the Cup.
Stats via NHL.com.