New York – Seven wins.
That’s all that stands between the New York Rangers and the Stanley Cup.
And after today’s 3-0 Ranger win over the Devils, the Blueshirts seem poised to continue on with their quest, thanks to good King Henrik Lundqvist who stopped 21 New Jersey shots.
“Yes, as a goalie you always have to step up when the team needs you not when you feel good and you have your moments,” Lundqvist said. “A lot of times it’s when the team’s struggling you have to step up.
“And it’s fun, too, to be there and try to make the difference sometimes when the team is going through a tough stretch.”
This is what the Rangers were looking for back in 2004 when they had a goalie dilemma. With Mike Richter retired and Dan Blackburn suffering nerve damage, essentially ending his career, the Rangers needed a No. 1 goaltender.
In fact, the Rangers were so desperate, the wasted the No. 6 pick on Al Montoya, hoping their replacement for Richter would come from there.
But they under-estimated Lundqvist. A seventh round pick in 2000, he was not high on the Rangers list, but took the team by storm.
Before the lockout started, the Rangers signed Kevin Weekes as the No. 1 goalie. Although, not an elite, he was to mind the store as either Lundqvist or Montoya would learn on the bench.
After the lockout, it was apparent Lundqvist was ready for prime time. Weekes went to the bench and Montoya was buried at Hartford.
Seven years later, Lundqvist is poised to win his first championship and is a possible choice for the Conn Smyth trophy.
How does he do it? Well wills himself to be the best player on the ice. And seeing Marty Brodeur the Greatest of All Time across the rink, it makes him better.
“Yeah, every time you play against great players, it’s exciting,” he said. “And already coming into the league, playing against Marty, growing up he was already a big guy over here, big name.
“And, of course, it’s inspiring and exciting to play against top guys. It always is. So it’s always been fun. It’s a great challenge for me to play against him. And I remember I got a few games against Hasek, and I put him up there with him. Just growing up they were the big guys. So it’s always exciting, it is.”
And with a career record of 23-6-5 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, plus five shutouts again Brodeur, you can see why he gets up for it.
With the Rangers coming out somewhat weak in the first two period, they needed Lundqvist tonight. His three save sequence on Zach Parise in the second kept the score knotted at zero, which let his Rangers come out in the third to score three times for the win.
“I think it’s going to be a tight series. Just a big battle out there. And I thought we made a couple of big plays there when it was a 1-0 game. They had a few chances to tie it up. They didn’t, and instead we scored the second one.
“And that was a big one. But I expect it to be just a big war out there for I don’t know how many games. But I look forward to it. It’s a fun game, and it was intense out there but I enjoyed it.”
And so did 18,200 fans at Madison Square Garden. If he does it seven more times in 13 games, Lundqvist will go from Garden beloved to Garden Legend.