"...And the New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup Champions!!!"
I, like all of my fellow DIE-HARD Rangers fans, can only hope that we will hear the above quote this year (or in the very near future). Also, I firmly believe that the Rangers have the main ingredient to make this happen, and in fact, many times. That main ingredient is a little something known as, World-Class Goaltending.
It is no secret that in order to persevere and win The Cup, you need an elite goaltender to be the backbone. Enter Henrik Lundqvist, The King. A Vezina finalist the first three years of his NHL career, and a Gold Medalist in the 2006 Olympics, Lundqvist has shown his ability to go toe-to-toe with the best of the best. Look no further than Lundqvist head-to-head record against probably the greatest goalie ever (so far...and it pains me to type this, it truly does), Martin Brodeur.
Also remember, Henrik's first career win was against that man, "FATSO". A very bold statement, a passing of the torch in my mind, in which Henrik clearly is telling Martina, "IT IS MY TIME". Henrik Lundqvist has owned "Uncle Daddy" in their careers, going 13-2-4 against her, err, I mean him.
Now, I pose just one question for discussion. Is Henrik Lundqvist a by-product of his defensive mates (forwards who backcheck and play defense included), or is he just an impenetrable force between the pipes? And the obvious, clear-cut, without a doubt, hands-down (stop me whenever you feel the need), most assured answer is HE IS UNBEATABLE WHEN ON HIS GAME.
The league leader in shutouts a year ago, already has eight wins this year, tops in the NHL, a GAA of 1.99, and a save percentage of 92.8 percent. That, my friends, is remarkable. Yes, I know it is early in the year, but consider the pre-season schedule, and three different sets of three games in four nights already for the Rangers. Plus, Steve Valiquette has only played in two games so far this year. Henrik Lundqvist is almost not human with those statistics.
I believe that although the Rangers are a very solid defensive team, other teams still have numerous opportunities that Lundqvist shuts the door on all by his self. Last night, Ilya Kovalchuk got robbed from 15 feet out. Marc Savard was also robbed by Lundqvist's glove last year.
The Rangers, for the most part, play mistake free hockey on defense (with some exceptions, like Nikolai Zherdev's asinine pass that was right to Kyle Okposo last Monday night). However, we all know that elite goaltending is needed if you wish to be Stanley Cup Champions. This year, Lundqvist has managed to outshine himself, and although he has no shutouts yet, Lundqvist is clearly in top form. He is the reason I firmly believe the Rangers will win the Stanley Cup this year.
Even before he was The King of Broadway, winning our adoration almost from the get-go, Lundqvist was one of (if not the) best goaltenders in the world, let alone the Swedish Elitserien, playing for Frolunda HC.
He was the Honken Trophy winner, their version of the Vezina, in 2003, 2004, and 2005. He also won two of the most prestigious awards in Swedish ice hockey, the Golden Puck and the Golden Helmet. The Golden Puck is awarded to the ice hockey player of the year, and the Goldem Helmet is the MVP award.
That means that since 2003, he has been among the best in his league every year since, and I do not see it stopping this year either. He will win the Vezina.
Therefore, I believe that the Rangers defense only helps Henrik dominate the blue paint. He is in a class of his own, and he will be the main reason the Rangers win the Stanley Cup (hopefully, numerous times). I believe he is the main reason the Rangers were among the leagues best defenses last year, in the top five in goals against (199). A steal for a seventh-round draft pick, for sure.
So, in conclusion, Henrik Lundqvist is the real deal, and he would be the real deal on any team, not just a defensively sound one like the New York Rangers. Aaron Voros said it best when he said the Rangers, "have the best insurance policy in the league back there. He's rock solid for us".
A look at Henrik's career stats for you as my sendoff:
Career GP: 206 GS: 202 MIN: 12187:03 W: 112 L: 60 OTL: 28 GA: 458 GAA: 2.25 SOG: 5539 SVS: 5081 SV %: .917 ENG: 8 SO: 17