Henrik Lundqvist keeps his blocking hand strong.
The New York Rangers goalie returned to form in spectacular fashion on Thursday night, blanking the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final and tallying one of the most ridiculous blocker saves of the season.
Brian Stubits of CBS Sports spotted video of the save, which came against Thomas Vanek in the second period of the 1-0 victory. Vanek put the puck on goal and in the process received a useful deflection from Rangers defenseman Daniel Girardi.
The deflection forced Lundqvist to change direction at the last moment. The Rangers keeper dropped his stick, twisted his body and backhanded the puck out of the crease, stopping what would’ve been a certain goal.
Pete Blackburn of NextImpulseSports.com crafted some GIFs of the blocker save. What did the Henrik say to the puck? SLAP.
Here’s the save viewed from the top.
Lundqvist’s backhanded swat stood to be the difference between overtime and advancing for the New York Rangers, who needed only a single goal from Dominic Moore to best the Habs and end the series. They now wait to play the winner of the Chicago Blackhawks-Los Angeles Kings series in the Stanley Cup Final.
Thursday showed a stark turnaround for Lundqvist, who had been pulled from Game 5 of the series before the halfway mark after a flurry of Montreal goals.
Lundqvist, who tallied 18 saves in Game 6, said the implications of the win were difficult to grasp at first.
“When there’s only two or threes seconds left and you realize you did it, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Lundqvist told Stephen Lorenzo of the New York Daily News. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more determined to win a hockey game…going into the playoffs, you talk about how it is a rollercoaster mentally, you have so many highs, you have a few lows where you question a lot of things, but then you just have to make up your mind. You can’t have any excuses.”
Indeed, excuses don’t win championships, but righteous, Matrix-style blocker saves certainly help.
Look for Lundqvist to ride this high into the Stanley Cup Final. His mind is right, his body is limber and he’s still a jungle cat in the net at 32 years of age.
Keep the block-hand stiff, Henrik, lest these pros forget who is the man is around this crease.
On the Twitters.