Through two and a half months of hockey, the New York Rangers have taken the bumpy road of inconsistency to hold a marginal lead in the Atlantic Division.
As the team continues to struggle putting up points offensively, they've had one redeeming factor which has bailed them out consistently.
That redeeming factor makes his home between the pipes. By birth he goes by the name Lundqvist, but the Big Apple has adopted him as their King.
With a league-leading 17 wins, Lundqvist has been a vital part to the teams postgame stick saluting, along with keeping them in good shape for April. His calm and collected demeanor has kept him focused during most of the 28 games he's played, but he does show that he is an outspoken leader on the ice as well.
The Rangers have looked for him to pick them up out of tight jams, and it's that shining spotlight where he seems to excel.
His October record says it best. Only two regulation losses in eleven games played made the Rangers instant favorites. His extraordinary ability to make timely saves in key situations gave him the honors of becoming one of NHL's three most valuable stars for the month of October.
The Rangers enjoyed cruising along with a league-leading 21 points, but as the season progressed, the October run was looking like more of an enigma.
The team encountered many early-season flaws. Few defensive players have made it tough for the Rangers to give Lundqvist the protection needed. A poor performance at home against Vancouver had Lundqvist yanked after a period and a half for letting up five goals. The inadequate play by the defense has prevented Lundqvist from notching a shutout victory thus far.
The Rangers also lacked scoring ability on special teams play. It got so bad at times that it's believed they have let up more goals shorthanded then have scored with an advantage. Ten shorthanded goals so far make it twelve away from tying a league record.
With the many flaws the Rangers sustain, they seem to have a knack for the heroics. In two separate instances this year, they've brought the games into over-time with less then a minute left on the clock. Then the team cautiously waits until they can reach their comfort zone, the shootout.
A tremendous 8-1 shootout record has given the Rangers a nice bulk of their victories. Their shootout specialists—Nikolai Zherdev, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Marcus Naslund—have made a huge impact on those wins, but the dominance of Henrik Lundqvist is what kept this team alive. In 24 shots on goal, only three have made it past him. The remainder of shots have been laughable attempts by those who thought they could outsmart The King.
In four years with the team, Henrik has proven that he is the staple in which to build your team around. Who would of thought a seventh-rounder out of Are, Sweden could come into the world's most famous arena and be a hero? He has certainly proven to the fans of New York and the league that he's a force to be reckoned with, and a name that could someday be mentioned upon the greats.
Right now, he continues to strive as the Most Valuable Ranger hoping the rest of the season can lead him towards two outstanding achievements—being awarded his first Vezina Trophy, and winning a Stanley Cup.
Randy Sobel is a contributor to Ranger Nation. He is also lead host of NYRNation Radio.
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