By Gordon Tepper, Contributing Writer
New York, NY (NYSportscene.com) – Henrik Lundqvist is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He’s the greatest Rangers goaltender in the history of the franchise and should absolutely be on everyone’s list of the greatest goaltenders of all time. His ability to carry a team on his back and perform in pressure-filled situations is remarkable. The notion that his legacy is tarnished and that his career is somehow insignificant without a Championship is absurd.
Any hockey commentator, or fan, who could claim that Lundqvist is anything less than an all-time great is either ignorant or stupid – or both. His postseason success speaks for itself: 43 career playoff wins, victories in five straight game sevens, and the unparalleled record in elimination games (11-3 in their last 14, including a game 5 double-overtime loss to Los Angeles in this year’s Stanley Cup Final).
Since entering the NHL in 2005, Lundqvist has been the New York Rangers’ team MVP virtually every season. The team qualifies for the playoffs with regularity, winning a round or two (or three) because of Henrik Lundqvist. It’s his lateral movement, his rebound control and his ability to stop just about every shot he sees. Sometimes a defenseman will cough up the puck or get caught up ice. Sometimes a puck will deflect off a skate or a stick at the last second. Sometimes he isn’t 100% perfect but he’s about as close as any NHL goalie could be.
He’s carried Team Sweden to an Olympic Gold medal. He’s won the Swedish Elite League Championship by posting unbelievably stellar numbers against top-tier competition. He’s won the Vezina Trophy, being named the best goalie as voted on by the general managers.
Henrik’s unique style and classy demeanor matched with his astounding accolades and heroic leadership skills makes him larger than life. He is the perfect storm when it comes to a New York athlete. He thrives under pressure. He’s ultra competitive and absolutely hates to lose.
He’s the reason the Rangers organization has experienced a resurgence in the past decade after missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons. He’s the reason fans of the New York Rangers had 25 additional hockey games to watch this year. He’s also the reason why the team will be contenders for the Cup for the next several years.
The only possible strike against him is his inability to carry the Rangers to the Stanley Cup. Holding that against him would be like holding it against Dominik Hasek, who was in the league 11 years (two more than Lundqvist) before capitulating and departing Buffalo for an elite squad in Detroit. It would be like holding it against Steven Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin (the league’s two best goal scorers).
Bill Wennington was not a better player than Patrick Ewing and Marc Andre Fleury is not better than Henrik Lundqvist.
Winning the Stanley Cup is not something you can do on your own. Certainly, the goaltender plays a key role in making it happen, but to go all the way against top competition requires timely goal scoring and quite a bit of luck – things completely out of Lundqvist’s control. No legitimate hockey analyst would argue that Lundqvist’s career is somehow marred by not hoisting the silver chalice. Naturally, he hopes to do so before his career is over but it would be utterly foolish to say his career was anything less than extraordinary without it.
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