A year ago we sat in front of our TVs wondering what he had left. After watching the Rangers get annihilated in a five-game series loss to the rival Penguins, New Yorkers had many questions. The main question: was this the end of Henrik Lundqvist’s reign as an elite goalie? The Swedish goaltender had given up three or more goals in each game of the series and six goals in game five. This was not the Rangers team New York had known to love and support from 2012-2015, in which the team had made it to two conference finals and even appeared in the Stanley Cup only to lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Kings. There were some men who appeared on all of those teams like Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal, just to name a few. However, the staple of these teams was the man in net: Henrik Lundqvist. The longest tenured Ranger has a knack for getting the Rangers out of any situation. The man who you could rely on to make that big save. The man who has allowed the Rangers to live with a sub-par defense over the past couple of years. Rangers fans were forced to wonder how much longer Hank could really keep this up. The bad playoff loss and the fact that Hank was turning 35 during the 2017 season left many Rangers fans with a bleak outlook.
Henrik has never been one who gets off to a good start to the season. It usually takes him a couple of weeks to get into his rhythm; that form that has been integral for so many Rangers teams. However, this “rough patch” lasted longer than usual. It lasted most of the season. During the regular season, Lundqvist had a 2.74 GAA and a .910 SV%, the lowest total of his career. The season was a struggle, after a hot start out of the gate, the Rangers seemed to fade towards the end of the season, and many were even questioning if Lundqvist should still be the tarting goalie. As one who has admired Lundqvist over the years, it was hard to watch such a great player’s career change so drastically. There was, however, that small hope that I held deep down that Hank would eventually return to his all-star game, Olympic form.
As the playoffs began, there wasn’t much hope for the Rangers. A win over the Canadians seemed like a possibility, yet there wasn’t the same optimism surrounding this team. Nobody believed that this team could really make a run. Then, the playoffs began, and with the start of the playoffs came the return of our savior; the king of New York. It was as if a switched was turned, and suddenly the man who had been the backbone of so many playoff runs had finally returned. Lundqvist was the key to the series. He recorded a game one shutout, in which he set the tone for the rest of the series. Suddenly, Carey Price wasn’t the only goalie to look out for in the series because the king was back. In the six games played so far this postseason, Lundqvist has a 1.70 GAA and SV% of .947. All of those bad memories of the regular season were suddenly forgotten as the Garden crowd serenaded Lundqvist with chants of “Hen-rik!” throughout the Rangers 3-1, game six win. Hope was restored to the Garden faithful, as they realized they suddenly had their leader back, the man who represents what it means to be a Ranger.
It hasn’t always been pretty, but if the past two weeks have taught us anything, one thing is certain: The King is back. He has been the backbone of so many Rangers teams, always there when we need him. And for now, he is restoring hope in the Garden faithful: Thank you, Hank.