In the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers drafted a name nobody outside Sweden had ever heard. At number 205, the Rangers selected Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The organization pulled a Detroit Red Wings and found a gem in the late rounds.
Henrik Lundqvist played 5 seasons with Swedish team Frölunda before joining the New York Rangers organization. In that time span he broke four Swedish national records, as well as winning two titles with them in 2003 and 2005. In 180 games, he had a 1.96 GAA and a .927 save %. And after the lockout ended, he flew overseas and brought his talents to the Big Apple.
In Lundqvist’s rookie season (2005-2006), he broke a Rangers’ record by winning 30 games. He was also a finalist for the Vezina trophy, an achievement not too many rookie goaltenders attain. He repeated the feat in his sophomore season. He finally won the prestigious award after the 2011-2012 season. Henrik Lundqvist not only has a Vezina trophy, but also a gold medal which he won with Sweden in the 2006 Winter Olympics. On March 12, 2009, Henrik Lundqvist became the first ever NHL goalie to win 30+ games in his first 4 NHL seasons. He has since extended that streak to 7 seasons. The incredible record possibly would’ve been extended if not for the shortened season in 2012-2013.
On March 18, 2014, Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 302nd win, an 8-4 blitz of the Ottawa Senators, surpassing Mike Richter to become the winningest goaltender in New York Rangers history. 4 days later, on March 22, Lundqvist earned his 50th shutout, a 2-0 win against the New Jersey Devils, and surpassed Eddie Giacomin in that category for yet another Rangers record.
According to @Mike_Rappaport on Twitter:
Since entering the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist leads all goalies (min. 200 GP) in GP (574), W (309), GAA (2.26), & SO (50) & is 2nd in SV% (.920).
— Michael Rappaport (@Mike_Rappaport) July 31, 2014
There are other goalies in the league that can arguably take the Best Goalie title. Tuukka Rask has won a Vezina this past season, and was also the backup to Tim Thomas in the 2011 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup victory, earning him a ring. Rask has a better GAA and SV% than Lundqvist, but Rask has yet to play 200 games, while Henrik has already surpassed 300. Jonathan Quick is also a valid candidate for this title, having won 2 Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings as a starter.
But here is why Henrik Lundqvist is the best goalie in the NHL: without him in net, the New York Rangers wouldn’t even be close to the feats they’ve accomplished over the last few seasons. The way the Boston Bruins play, they don’t necessarily need a superstar goalie between the pipes to win games. It’s always nice to have one, but if Tuukka Rask were traded, they’d manage. In Los Angeles, Jonathan Quick plays on the team that made the playoffs solely based on his outstanding play in 2012, and then the team obliterated everybody to win the cup that year. The 2013-2014 saw the Kings do much better in the regular season as they beat the Rangers in 5 games to recapture their second Stanley Cup in three years.
Henrik Lundqvist is the major reason why the Rangers are so dangerous. Without him in net, it’s very unlikely the Rangers would’ve made the Stanley Cup, or maybe would’ve even missed the playoffs entirely. The Rangers rely on their goaltender to make key saves at key moments in the game. Take Rask out of Boston, and the Bruins would still be ok. Take Quick out of LA, and the Kings wouldn’t be as good, but they’d still probably make the playoffs. Take Lundqvist, “The King” as nicknamed by the fans, out of New York, and the Rangers would be lucky to take the last wild card spot. He means more to the Rangers than any other goalie does to their organization.