Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Henrik Lundqvist Swatch Card

Why not take advantage of a week-long eternity between hockey games to talk about the best goalie in the world - the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. Of course, you have to take that fact with a bit of a grain of salt, if only because many of the aspects we use to weigh that are easily debunked.

Case in point: he's the only goalie in history to record 7 consecutive 30-win seasons to start his career. Then again, back in Terry Sawchuk's day, seasons got as long as 50 games, so King Henrik's 70 games played per year certainly factor in, as do the fact that there are no more tied games, with overtimes now having a 50% chance of a win, better for quality (read: playoff-bound) teams like the Rangers.

However, posting GAAs and save percentages consistently among the top-5 over a long stretch of time become more impressive, so Lundqvist's career 2.25 GAA and .920 save % is not only great, but almost mind-boggling. The fact that his career stats are exactly the same (2.28 and .920) in the playoffs, against necessarily better teams (the league's top-16 rather than the entire 30 teams) is even better and speaks even more of his consistency.

He holds Elitserein (Swedish league) records for both GAA and save percentage. He has accumulated the most shutouts in Madison Square Garden history (again, also a factor of playing so much), but his Olympics record for most shutout minutes (over the course of two sessions, 2006 and 2010) is impressive as well, standing at 172 minutes and 34 seconds - or just about three straight games.

He has an Olympic gold medal (2006), as well as World Championship silver (2003 and 2004).

A former goalie myself - and current youth hockey goaltending coach - I am often asked to rank the NHL's goalies, usually because people want me to rank the Montréal Canadiens' Carey Price. This season has been mayhem on my rankings, but in general, had we had a full season with everyone starting on time and having had the same training camp periods, it would have looked like this in September:

1. Henrik Lundqvist
2. Jonathan Quick
3. Pekka Rinne
4. Craig Anderson
5. Miikka Kiprusoff

Kipper was injured and had an off year, but has been the second most consistent of the last decade, so he can be forgiven. Tuukka Rask is definitely on the rise, and I have faith in Ben Bishop to crack the top-10 next year, while Roberto Luongo shouldn't be counted out yet.

And so, getting this white-swatch card from Panini's 2011-12 Pinnacle set (card #41 of the Game Night sub-set) was truly a blessing - my 'hits' aren't usually impressive, or are other people's favourites; this time, I had a guy I truly regarded as one of the best in his profession:

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