Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Henrik Lundqvist Jersey Card

(As per years past, this is a twin-post with my "regular" blog, where I predicted the New York Rangers would finish sixth in the Metropolitan Division in 2019-20).

9/11 seems like as good a day as any to mention the team playing in Manhattan and its best player of the past 15 years, star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"Hank" is one of only eight active NHL goalies with a Vezina Trophy on his resume, and one could certainly make a case for why he should have two. If there was an award for most consistent over the longest period of time, he'd definitely get it:
from HockeyDB
I mean, so many seasons under 2.50 goals-against average, so many seasons above a .920 save percentage, most of them hovering near or reaching the 70-game plateau, so it's almost not surprising he's the only goalie in NHL history with 11 30-win seasons in his first 12 seasons - a feat even workhorse and trap benefactor Martin Brodeur never achieved.

He's even better in the postseason:
from Hockey-Reference
There has been a decline, however, as the Rangers have gone through a rebuilding process - not just of his play and stamina, but of the team's entire defense corps, meaning he gets better quality chances against, so he has a tougher job, so it's a bit of a vicious circle.

Many consider him a butterfly goalie, but I don't: he plays too deep in his crease (pictures 1-2), his glove is a tad too high (3, in that regard, he really has inspired the styles of many goalies a generation younger than he is) and his stance is too wide  - butterfly goalies' feet should be at of near the shoulders, whereas King Henrik's skates are usually out past his gloves even when standing (4-5). He does have the flat pad that butterfly goalies have perfected (6).
1. Instead of challenging the shooter, he gives him ample room to aim and get his bet shot in.
2. Instead of cutting the angle by coming out, Lundqvist remains deep and relies on his reflexes.
3. High glove, the high end even above the crossbar.
4. Wide stance ready for either a shot of a pass across.
5. This wider stance means he's expecting a shot and is ready to go down.
6. The "butterfly" technique's main advantage is that the flat pad nullifies the bottom 20% of the net completely.
Instead, I like to call his style "the brick wall", where he is usually right in front of the goal line, relying on his laser-accurate reflexes to stop high pucks with his glove or blocker, and expecting the rest to hit him on the pads or chest (7-9):
7. Remaining along the line enables Lundqvist to slide across while remain perpendicular to the middle of the net, parallel to the position of the net.
8. While remaining deep even on breakaways, by moving along the goal line, he is less likely to get thrown completely out of position.
9. Giving the shooter ample room and staying square in front of the net enables Lundqvist to stop shots in a butterfly-like position to kick the pad out of danger.
The thing about reflexes is they fade over time, sometimes drastically.

Still, it's extremely difficult to dismiss Lundqvist's mental strength and ability to will himself into one final spectacular season, provided he gets enough rest and plays no more than twice a week during the regular season and can accept being in net for, say 12-14 of the 16 wins a Stanley Cup victory requires, letting the younger Alexandar Georgiev handle the rest (and even outplay him for weeks at a time).

Here's the King, wearing the Rangers' classic white (now-away) unifrom on card #GJ-HL from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Series 2 set and UD Game Jersey sub-set, sticking to his goal post as he should, watching the puck in the corner:
It features a matching white game-worn jersey swatch. What a beautiful card and picture!

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