The New York Rangers couldn’t have earned the top seed in the NHL’s Eastern Conference without goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist, who is also known as “King Henrik” had a career season, posting a 39-18 record and a 1.97 goals-against average, making him the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy; but we still can’t call him the league’s top goaltender.
The 30-year-old Lundqvist’s stellar play has transitioned from the regular season into the playoffs this year but he’s left with the same problem he has had in previous postseasons: overtime.
The Rangers failed to take control of their series with the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, as the Senators tied the series at two, thanks to an overtime game-winner by Kyle Turris. Turris fired a laser – but very stoppable puck – past Lundvist’s glove hand and it almost appeared as though he was waving goodbye to the Scotiabank Place crowd, as the Rangers and Senators now head back to New York for Game 5.
"It's frustrating to lose in overtime, but there were some good things," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I think we still need some more guys involved, but it was two overtimes, the series is 2-2 and we're going back home."
But for Lundqvist and the Rangers, Wednesday night’s loss was an all too familiar sight.
New York has lost their last seven playoff games that have gone to overtime, which is the longest streak in team history and Lundqvist has been in net for each one of those losses. In his career, Lundqvist is 1-7 in overtime and has not been able to get the Rangers out of the first round the last two seasons.
The Rangers had a 2-0 lead through the first intermission and seemed well on their way to taking a 3-1 series lead but the Senators chipped away and eventually tied the contest up late in the second period.
While Lundqvist let in two tough goals to Milan Michalek and Sergei Gonchar, he was impressive as regulation time wound down, making a big stop on Chris Phillips in the final minutes.
New York is the favorite to win the opening series and still holds the upper hand – home ice advantage. But if history is any indication that advantage could go right out the window if any of the remaining three games get to overtime.
NHL goaltenders come-and-go almost as quickly as NFL running backs these days and for this reason Lundqvist has become undoubtedly the best netminder in the NHL – during the regular season. He needs to start winning some big playoff games if he wants to prove he’s a clutch as some of his counterparts around the NHL, like Tim Thomas and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ed is the lead hockey writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller, and subscribe on Facebook @CraveOnlineSports.