Lundqvist Keeps Penning Chapters in Storied Career
By Gordon Tepper, Contributing Writer
In May of 2000, Glen Sather was named the general manager the Rangers organization after spending decades with the Edmonton Oilers. Three years before taking the job in New York, “Slats” was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for his role in building the dynasty that won five Stanley Cups in a span of seven seasons from 1984-1990. While his achievements in Edmonton were certainly Hall-of-Fame worthy, what goes down in history as the most astonishing draft-day steal of his storied career would come just one month into his tenure as GM of the Rangers. When Henrik Lundqvist was selected as the 205th overall pick of the 2000 NHL draft, no-one knew he would become the face of the franchise.
With each ensuing season, there would be a barrage of trades and free agent signings by the Rangers, each talked about as potentially securing the missing piece that would take the team back to the Promised Land. However, what ultimately brought the team back to the postseason after a seven-year drought and made them a perennial contender for the Stanley Cup was the greatest 7th round draft choice in NHL history.
Prior to joining the NHL, Lundqvist took the Swedish Elite League by storm, setting records and thriving in pressure-filled situations. His playoff performances were the stuff of legend. In the 2004-05 playoffs with Frolunda, he went 12-2 with a .961 save percentage and a 1.05 goals against average en route to capturing his second SEL Championship in three years. Not withstanding his remarkable accomplishments in international competition, including a 5-1 record that landed Team Sweden a gold medal in the 2006 Olympics, his legacy would truly be cemented as the star goaltender for the New York Rangers.
Dubbed King Henrik by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, Lundqvist continually lives up to his nickname. Setting an NHL record for consecutive 30-win seasons to start a career (7), Henrik would win the Vezina trophy (awarded to the League’s best goalie) in 2011 – an award he has been a finalist for on four other occasions. Although he is only 32 years of age and still in the prime of his career, he already holds Rangers franchise records for both wins (309) and shutouts (50). With his victory over the Penguins on Tuesday night, he has won five consecutive game sevens – a feat never before completed by an NHL goalie.
A seven-time Ranger MVP, Lundqvist has managed to turn otherwise mediocre seasons into extraordinary ones. The fact that the Rangers even qualify for the playoffs with regularity, let alone win a round or two, is often largely due to Henrik’s heroic performances. The current run that the team is on can be directly attributed to his outstanding play between the pipes.
Henrik’s star even shines brightly off the ice. He’s played guitar on Jimmy Fallon and his perfectly coiffed hair has landed him the leading role in Swedish shampoo commercials. He has also been featured in GQ for his impeccable style and he’s been ranked on People Magazine’s list of the “sexiest men alive.”
A cornerstone of consistency, Lundqvist is eight wins away from the one piece of hardware that has eluded him. Sure, he could retire today and still end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Ranger fans have reason to believe the best is yet to come. 2014 may finally be the year that King Henrik skates with the silver chalice.
Gordon Tepper is the Communications Director for the City of Long Beach and an Adjunct Communications Professor at Hofstra University. He’s also a die-hard Ranger fan. He can be reached on Twitter @gordtep.