Past his prime? Over the hill? Not yet for Henrik Lundqvist.
Some doubted Lundqvist could still be The King after he was pulled from the Rangers’ final two playoff losses last year in the first round against Pittsburgh, which followed a career-worst 2.48 goals against average during the regular season while facing the most shots of any goalie in the NHL. There were those who felt at 34 years old Lundqvist’s days as an elite goaltender were over, and that his window to win the elusive Stanley Cup was closing.
Then there was his pedestrian start to this season, a .901 save percentage and 17 goals allowed through his first seven starts, the totals after allowing three goals on 21 shots in Raleigh on Friday.
On Tuesday night you were reminded of just how good Lundqvist is when he stopped all 35 shots from the St. Louis Blues, earning his first shutout of the year in his best game of the season. You were reminded of what Lundqvist is still capable of, especially on saves like his first-period glove rob of Robby Fabbri while nearly doing a full split.
This was vintage Lundqvist.
“Hank was able to find his rhythm,” Alain Vigneault said. “There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that he was gonna find it.”
Lundqvist said he felt more involved over the final 50 minutes than he had been previously this season. He stopped nine shots in the first, 16 shots in the second and 10 in the third.
“There’s been a lot of games so far this year that have had (a) low (number of) shots, and sometimes it’s hard to come up with that extra save when you’re not that involved in the game,” he said. “But today there were shots, chances, and I felt like I was tested a lot and it felt good. It was fun to be involved and to get some work.”
Henrik Lundqvistcelebrates his shutout win against the Blues with Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh on Tuesday.
(Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
Work he got, and work he’s sure to get again Thursday when the Rangers welcome the upstart Oilers to town for what should be a matchup between Lundqvist and his former backup Cam Talbot, who has a .932 save percentage on 311 shots faced.
It will be the first NHL game at the Garden for 19-year-old Edmonton phenom Connor McDavid, the youngest captain in league history who was named the NHL’s first star for the month of October after posting 12 points.
“Obviously you see (McDavid’s) highlights every night,” Dan Girardi said. “He’s making big plays every game. He’s a big-time player. Obviously we’re gonna have to pay special attention to him. But their whole team is playing well right now, which is helping.”
Lundqvist joined an exceptional group Tuesday when he earned his 60th career shutout, becoming the 10th NHL goaltender ever to record at least 350 wins and at least 60 clean sheets. The other nine are Ed Belfour; Martin Brodeur; Tony Esposito; Glenn Hall; Dominik Hasek; Roberto Luongo; Jacques Plante; Patrick Roy and Terry Sawchuk. Seven of those goalies are in the Hall of Fame. Brodeur will get in when eligible in 2018 and Luongo is still playing.
All those goalies except Luongo have at least one Stanley Cup to their name. Luongo, like Lundqvist, reached a Cup Final and lost. Esposito was a backup for his lone Cup win with Montreal in his first season.
Time will tell if Lundqvist attains the missing piece to his résumé, but with these re-tooled, fast and furious Rangers ahead of him, the Stanley Cup window for Lundqvist, same as he ever was, appears open.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News