By Michael Battista
On Saturday, Feb. 11, the New York Rangers played the Colorado Avalanche in what was another regular season game. Colorado has been struggling this season, allowing the Rangers offense to come alive in the third period when defenseman Kevin Klein, left winger Rick Nash and right winger Kevin Hayes all netted goals. As the final buzzer rang, those in Madison Square Garden erupted in cheers. Not only for the team’s offense in the 4-2 win, but because of their goalie.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t playing a normal game that night. The victory marked his 400th regular season win in his 12-year tenure with the New York Rangers.
The 34-year-old Lundqvist became the 12th goalie in NHL history to reach the 400 win mark, doing it in the shortest time compared to any other goalie — 727 games — becoming the only Swedish-born player to reach the feat thus far.
Rangers fans know how much Lundqvist’s accomplishment means not only for the team, but for the man himself. Even though he was drafted in 2000, Lundqvist’s first season was in 2005, right after the NHL lockout the previous season. Rangers fans were anxious for a new goalie after longtime goalie Mike Richter left the roster and retired after the 2003 season.
Lundqvist not only stepped up to Richter’s role, but he’s been one of the major cornerstones for the Rangers in more than a decade and earning the nickname “King Henrik.”
He has won 30 or more games 10 times over his career and currently looks to be on his way to hitting that mark again this season.
His style of play is completely unorthodox, but unpredictability and athleticism is what has gotten him to 400 wins. While he plays using the butterfly style — a technique in which the goalie gets on his knees and uses his entire body and guard pads to guard the lower part of the net — Lundqvist’s speed has kept opposing offenses thrown for a loop.
I’ll never forget certain moments, particularly playoff games, where Lundqvist essentially saved seasons from ending early.
During the 2015 playoffs, I remembered watching the first round games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the edge of my seat in Travers Hall. Every single game was decided by a single goal and seeing centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby with the puck in the Rangers zone is one of the most terrifying feelings a Rangers fan can feel.
But no one should ever doubt the King, as Henrik stopped nearly every shot that came at him. He only allowed one goal in during those four games and the Rangers won every single one of those games en route to advancing to the next round, four games to one.
Lundqvist has done a lot in his career from winning the Vezina Trophy in 2012, to making the NHL All-Star Game three times and helping the Swedish national team win the gold medal during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy. It’s easy to see why so many people, not just including Rangers fans, see Lundqvist as one of the modern day elite goalies in the world and why he has earned the moniker of “King.”
With another incredible notch under his belt, Lundqvist will need to put the achievement behind and focus on winning the remaining games if he hopes to overcome one task that has alluded him his entire career: winning a Stanley Cup and riding down New York’s “Canyon of Heroes” as a champion.
Until then, Lundqvist will continue to play his position at an elite level. While there may be some bumps in the road and some rough games, no matter what happens, the citizens of Rangers Town will always be on their feet as the PA system in Madison Square Garden blares out, “And in goal, No. 30, Henrik Lundqvist!”