The King Stands Up For the Blueshirts

by: Joe McDonald | Publisher and Editor-in-Chief | Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NEW YORK – So much has been said about the Rangers’ newest additions and how they have helped the Blueshirts off to their perfect start.

With the line of Aaron Voros, Brandon Dubinsky, and Nik Zherdev taking care of the scoring, it’s easy to overlook the Rangers most valuable player, the one who is the driving force of their success.

So with Henrik Lundqvist off to a blazing start, then it makes sense that the Rangers are now the only 5-0-0 team in the area.

After taking the night off on Saturday and giving Stephen Valiquette a chance to shine, Lundqvist was back in his office for the Rangers 4-1 victory over the Devils on Monday night. With the win, he has now allowed only five goals in four games, for a 1.25 goals against average.

“When you have a good team in front of you can relax more,” said Lundqvist who always credits his mates. Yet, his superior play comes from more than just having a quality squad in front of him. It’s years of hard work evolving his play from a low butterfly style to a hybrid of the butterfly and stand up style.

“This is the way I played the last 30 or 40 games last year,” Lundqvist said. “I’m really trying to play big although I am not really big. And I have to play patient.”

After the All-Star break last season, Lundqvist posted a 15-6 record with a 2.12 g.a.a. in 27 games. By using his hybrid style, which was devised by goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, The King was able to cut down on the soft goals which plagued him early on in the year. It allowed the Rangers to get hot and secure the No. 5 slot in the playoffs, which led them to the second round.

“Last year when I started to play well, I came up and stayed more patient,” he said. “The game just gets easier for me. I am staying up and that’s how I am playing and how I should be playing.”

In order to prevent the early season lapses which hurt him the last two seasons, Lundqvist came camp early. On the suggestion of coach Tom Renney the goalie, along with most of the Rangers showed up to camp the first week of September and started working out together. That helped Lundqvist work on keeping the momentum from last season, while getting his cranky knees into shape, after they were injured during Game 4 of the Pittsburgh Series.

“Early on this year we talked about how I played when I had success and staying high,” said Lundqvist, who took cortisone shots for his knees and has to stretch and ice them on a daily basis. “I have a mixed feeling out there. I have to be relaxed and stay on my toes. I feel like I am staying back and at the same time, I am staying on my toes.”

The results are apparent with the Rangers tying the record for their best start, which was first set in 1983. If Lundqvist can stay healthy and focused, the sky’s the limit for the team. The smart money says he does it, as The King has come into his own.

Notes: Voros scored twice with Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan getting a tally in the win…Voros has seven points over the past four games…Dubinsky had two assists and won 75% of his face-offs…The last time the Rangers were 5-0-0, Herb Brooks was the coach and Glen Hanlon was in net…The Rangers return to action on Wednesday when the Buffalo Sabres come to town.