This is supposed to be a rebuilding season for the New York Rangers.
With a new coach, a new system, and a lot of younger players, all this team needs to do this season is establish an identity, let their younger players learn, and try their absolute best. Right now, it should be about patience for this franchise as it looks to reestablish itself as a competitive force in the Eastern Conference.
While their record would indicate that this could be a long season (4-7-1), there is clearly one player that wants a lot more out of this hockey club. In fact, this player probably still believes that this team can compete for a Cup this season.
This guy is franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist, a future Hall of Fame masked man, has accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish for an NHL goaltender except win Lord Stanley, something that is clearly driving him.
While his numbers don’t put him the top tier this season, he has still posted a 2.77 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. If you’ve been following the Blueshirts this season, then you know that these are impressive numbers considering who he has in front of him.
His performance in his team’s last three games show that he is as hungry as ever to win the one thing he has not won in hockey. It also shows that he can still stop the puck and do everything he can to help his team win.
On October 25, he was fantastic in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, stopping 33 of 36 shots. The Blueshirts had no business in being in this game, and yet, they were, in it going into the third period and even part of that period as Lundqvist stood on his head.
Two days later, the team got more of the same from their goaltender as he stopped 36 of 40 shots in a loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Yes, he probably should have stopped the Kings’ game winning goal in the last minute, but other than that blemish, he was fantastic for his hockey club.
On October 30, he was the reason his team beat the San Jose Sharks in a 4-3 shootout. He made timely saves, kept his team in the game, and then stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout to go along with his 31 saves in regulation to help his team come away with two points.
His win over the Sharks puts him three victories away from tying legendary masked man (no pun intended) Jacques Plante for seventh place on the NHL’s all-time wins list (437). That’s pretty impressive considering just how great he has had to be for this franchise year after year.
What’s really impressive about Lundqvist’s play this season is that he has been the team’s most consistent player. He has made at least 30 saves in seven of his ten appearances this year, has been selected as one of the game’s Three Stars in five of his 10 games this year, and has posted a .900 save percentage or better in eight of 10 starts this season.
It is clear that while the team is in rebuilding mode, Lundqvist will always remain in win-now mode. He’s fiery, he’s focused, and he’s still doing everything he can to win what he’s wanted all of his career.
For Lundqvist, it’s not about rebuilding. It’s about being the best. And right now, he has been that and more for his hockey team, just like he’s been for his entire career.
*Photo: Boston Herald