The Metropolitan Division won the three on three all-star game tournament for the first time at least in part due to a superb effort from Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
In the grand scheme of Henrik Lundqvist’s illustrious NHL career, his five all-star game appearances probably won’t move the needle much one way or another. Hockey’s all-star game isn’t the accolade that MLB’s is for baseball. Since the format and frequency of the event have changed multiple times Lundqvist only being a five-timer makes sense.
Although Lundqvist only played for half of the Metropolitan Division’s ice time, he was stellar when called upon. If you’ve never watched the NHL all-star game, just imagine pond hockey with absolutely no backchecking. The play is just a series of bomb passes, breakaways and players skating in circles trying to open up a shooting lane.
For the first time all year, Lundqvist had players in front of him setting things up and creating plays. Granted, the defense of the Atlantic and Central divisions wasn’t exactly the 2002 trap New Jersey Devils, but, Lundqvist had help.
The combination of Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as Mat Barzal of the New York Islanders, inflicted heavy damage in front of Lundqvist.
During a stoppage in play, Pierre McGuire of NBCSN asked Letang what the strategy for their line was. Letang replied, “get the puck to Barzal in space, we’ve seen what he can do during the regular season.”
Both Barzal and Crosby recorded five points in the championship against the Central Division with this strategy in effect.
In the final, Lundqvist made did not allow a goal on any of the six shots he faced. Most impressive was his outright robbery of Gabriel Landeskog who was breaking towards the net.
Sure, the silliness of the all-star game will always draw scrutiny. However, as a fan of the game, it was a joy to see Lundqvist not driven to insanity while on the same ice as Crosby. Their mutual desire for greatness has made tempers flare in the past to the point that Lundqvist squirted Crosby with a water bottle during a post-whistle scrum in the 2014 postseason.
As a kid, the all-star game is about seeing the truly special talent of the sport collaborate in ways that the typical league structure does not allow. There are very few people on the planet capable of making the save that Lundqvist did on Landeskog there. Even as the oldest player participating in the event, number 30 rose to the occasion.
In addition, it’s been too long since we were treated to Doc Emerick of NBCSN frantically calling a Lundqvist save as if the fate of humanity was on the line. The Swede has two more years remaining on his contract following this year.
Moments like the all-star game mean the world to Lundqvist as a competitor. At face value, he lives for competing against the best in the world. There has to be some of that self-reflection in there that any aging athlete has, “do I still have it?” “Can I hang with these young guys still?”
— Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30) January 27, 2019
After Saturday night, it’s clear that Lundqvist is still capable of rising to the occasion under the bright lights. Even if Crosby got handed all-star game MVP, the Rangers’ netminder can hold his head high knowing he was the reason his team won.