On April 3, veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist further cemented himself into New York Rangers history, becoming the second-most winningest goaltender in the team’s history. With the Rangers’ 6-1 throttling of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lundqvist surpassed Ranger great Eddie Giacomin with 268 career wins with the Blueshirts.
The only thing standing between Lundqvist and the record Mike Richter currently holds is some 30-odd games.
At this point, there is no doubt Lundqvist will not only edge his way to the top sooner rather than later, but he’s going to blow past Richter while he’s at it. For a player who has won 30-plus games since he began his NHL career, it isn’t going to be difficult.
And unless something horrible transpires, I expect to watch the number ‘30’ raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden before I die.
Maybe that’s a bold statement to make for a guy who hasn’t gotten the 302 wins to pass Richter or a cup, but I think both factors are within the realm of Lundqvist’s reach. The King is in control of his own destiny.
So much of the Ranger’s success since 2005 has been reliant on the play of Lundqvist. Whether it’s been just barely squeezing themselves into the playoffs or needing to hold off a quick, offensively-terrifying team during an important game, Lundqvist has been the one to carry the team on his back. He has been nothing short of a solo phenomenon since the start of his career in New York.
I mean come on, while Ranger fans have been discussing how this is one of Lundqvist’s most lackluster seasons, everyone else is throwing his name into the Vezina Trophy debate.
And if you consider the Rangers Lundqvist has played with and the Rangers Richter played with, you could argue that Lundqvist’s number should be retired because so far in his career, he is the better goaltender.
That isn’t to say Richter isn’t one of the best that ever lived. He is certainly the best American goaltender to ever live, and you could argue that had he not been so injury-prone during his career, his name would definitely float around as one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game. There are very few goaltenders who could ever pull off what Richter was capable of.
With that being said, Lundqvist has not had the all-around gifted teams Richter had in the early leg of his career. The teams Richter played with were able to put up three to six goals in a game easily. Lundqvist’s teams are lucky to get three. The current goaltender’s success has almost always, always been dependent on how few goals he would let in during a game. It’s been consistently rare to see him give up more than three goals per game during his career.
If you look at numbers alone, Lundqvist has been more exceptional than Richter. He’s finished every season with at least 30 wins and has never personally been below .500. Richter only achieved this twice.
While Lundqvist hasn’t won the Stanley Cup, he has won the Vezina and Olympic gold, two achievements Richter himself wasn’t able to obtain during his career. With the Rangers lineup now and in the next couple of seasons ahead, the odds of the Blueshirts winning a Cup are favorable. Lundqvist is one of the most important factors in that equation, and he may well be the X factor in a potential Stanley Cup victory.
But let’s face it, Stanley Cup or not, the number 30 probably won’t be available much longer, as it will be retired in honor of the greatest Rangers goaltender to have ever played.