I’ve written about Henrik Lundqvist before, back when the Kings were playing the Rangers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. His impact on a game isn't always reflected in statistics, though those are usually kind to him as well.
Here’s the problem with writing about Henrik Lundqvist — it just seems like everything about him has been written before. He plays deep. He has a wide stance and maintains his position on his skates as long as possible. He thrives under the bright lights of Broadway and relishes playoff pressure. His eyes burn into my soul - sorry, briefly possessed by my daughters (at least that's my official story).
I saw The King in person most recently on October 24, when the Rangers came to Philadelphia and lost to the Flyers in a shootout, 3-2. His intensity is even more apparent in person that on television. I mean, he lost his stick in net-side battles at least 5 times! There must have been 15 different plays I could have used to show his goal-line-out-stay-on-his-skates style, his ridiculous reflexes, his perfect angle coverage, or his insane vision.
The funny thing is, contrary to his off-ice persona, he really isn't a graceful goalie. Despite his highly structured approach to the game, it always appears as though he is teetering on the edge of disaster. It's actually huge part of why he's so much fun to watch.
I found my 1-play sample for The King a few games later, from the Rangers’ 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on November 3:
TJ Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov drive deep into the offensive zone to the right of the Rangers' net, and Kuznetsov finds Alex Ovechkin wide open in the high slot.
Ovi doesn't shoot, which is a little surprising. Statistics show Henrik is susceptible to mid range chances, sometimes looking oddly easily beaten. (This makes perfect sense to me, by the way. From this range, at the depth he normally plays, a shooter with a quick release and hard, accurate shot can beat his reflexes, particularly with a screen. On a longer shot, Henrik has an extra split second to react. From closer in, his usually perfect angle alignment and wide stance takes away most of the net.) Lundqvist recognizes the threat, and pushes to the top of the crease rather than simply holding his ground.
At this point, you'd assume Ovi will just fire away. Instead, he passes up another shot, and continues to carry the puck into the slot.
Henrik challenges even further forward, well above the crease, as Ovechkin drives to the net. This draws him even with TJ Oshie, who is crashing from his left. The result is that there isn’t any space for Oshie to deflect Ovechkin’s shot, nor is he in position to effectively play a rebound.
There just isn’t anywhere for Ovechkin to shoot. His attempt at a low shot off of Lundqvist’s left toe actually is deflected in front of the goalie by Oshie’s skate.
Ovi goes flying. Cut to commercial.
Ironically, this is a play in which the most prolific goal-scorer over the last decade is attacking through the slot, and the goaltender renowned for stopping shots with his back almost in the net ends up 5 feet above the crease and doesn’t even make a save.
I think The King is at his best when he’s in the middle of what the great Doc Emrick would call “marvelous chaos.” He's a highly structured, technically proficient goalie, but his true core is that of a fierce, relentless competitor. This play won’t be counted as a save, or even a shot on goal, but it tells me everything I need to know about Henrik Lundqvist.