|Posted by Heidi Pope Werner on May 11, 2012 at 4:10 PM|
Hard work and determination got The New York Rangers to the top of the Eastern Conference, but much of the workload fell on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. As the New York Rangers gear up for an explosive Game 7 against the Washington Capitals Saturday night, the Vezina Trophy finalist must continue his fight to advance past the dragon that has kept New York out of the playoffs the last two seasons. If the Rangers win and advance, they will take on The New Jersey Devils and veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur, or go home.
Henrik Lundqvist (photo courtesy of crimespreehockey.com)
The Swedish netminder has had an impressive year. A four-time Vezina finalist, Lundqvist ranked near the top of the league in wins, shutouts, plus a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage leading the Rangers to the Eastern Conference regular-season title for the first time since 1993-94.
Also named a finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the league, Lundqvist's value marks only the eighth time since 1980 that a goalie has been named a finalists. This is the first time since 2006-07, when Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur were in the top three, that a goaltender's contributions prevailed. The Hart gets its votes from members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, who have marveled at the brickwall in net for the Rangers.
But that's not all. Lundqvist was also named a finalist for the Ted Lindsey Award for the NHL's "most outstanding player." This is an honor and high recognition for Lundqvist, because the NHL players vote on the Lindsey. His teammates know the battles he has faced. Only this season, the Blueshirts have recognized the offensive power they must bring to be called champions.
Lundqvist has the second lowest goals-against average in the playoffs at 1.73, but the disappointing 2-1 loss in Game 6 shook the goaltender. In a postgame interview, the usually calm backbone of the New York crew had a flustered tone in his voice.
The pressure is on to move past the second round for the first time since 1997, but hope is not lost. The Rangers are 4-5 in Game 7s but 4-0 at home, while The Capitals are 3-7, 1-1 on the road. No team has ever won the Stanley Cup after heading into Game 7s in the first two rounds.