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Henrik Lundqvist Chasing Vezina? 2008-09 Could Spell Success for the Man in Blue

Mike RappaportAnalyst IIJuly 28, 2008

For Henrik Lundqvist, it's hard to beat the first three years that he has had in his NHL career in the Big Apple.

Lundqvist has been nominated for the Vezina trophy each year, broken franchise records, ended a playoff drought, and has won an Olympic Gold Medal.

This year, Lundqvist will begin the first year of his six-year contract, which will pay him around $6.5 million annually. He will look to get the Rangers playing June hockey, while setting a pace to break every Rangers goaltending record in the book.

And now, with Jaromir Jagr and most likely Brendan Shanahan gone, the face of the franchise now belongs to the King of New York (along with Scott Gomez and Chris Drury). And maybe, with the other personnel changes the Rangers have made, the King will wear the crown as the best goalie in the NHL with a Vezina trophy after the upcoming season.

With Jagr, Shanahan, and Martin Straka out, and Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund in, there may be a more up-tempo style of play that head coach Tom Renney has wanted to play since after the lockout.

Renney's style also involves a commitment to defense, with phrases such as "five men in the picture" featured prominently. However, in past seasons this style brought grief from the moody ex-captain of the Rangers, and many on the team followed his lead and resisted the system.

On the blue line, the Rangers' young draft picks are now in the NHL, as players like Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, along with veteran notables like Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin, look to provide responsible play in front of Lundqvist.

With the defense over the last three years being the main concern on Manhattan, and with Lundqvist putting up Vezina-worthy numbers regardless, it is scary to think what his stats will look like after this season.

So, will the fourth time be the charm?   


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