Henrik Lundqvist: King of Game 7’s
Game seven is a stressful yet wonderful event in the world of sports. It’s winner takes all; win or go home. Game seven can make or break careers; it can elevate players to new heights or it can make them crumble under pressure. Game seven is where everything is left on the line, every shift matters more than the last and the grand euphoria at one end means that there is utter depression in the other. It’s a chance for a team’s best players to make their marks and no athlete has made their mark in game seven’s like Henrik Lundqvist has.
It’s April 28, 2009. The New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals are all tied up at 1 with a little over five minutes to go in the third period of game seven of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Capitals forward Sergei Fedorov skates up ice with the puck and uses Rangers defensemen Wade Redden as a screen. With Redden obscuring Lundqvist’s view, Fedorov rips a shot over Lundqvist and gives the Capitals a 2-1 lead in the game with under five minutes to go in the game. The Capitals would go on to win the series and advance to the semifinals to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers would go home disappointed; even more so after being up 3-1 in the series. That was the last time Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers lost a game seven in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s been a much different story since then.
We now move ahead in time. With the Rangers defeating the Capitals on Wednesday night in overtime, that makes six straight game seven victories for Lundqvist and the boys in blue. Since giving up two goals to the Capitals in that heartbreaking game seven in 2009, Lundqvist has not allowed more than one goal in a game seven. He has shut the door on teams over and over again and shown that there is no goalie who anyone could want more in that situation than him. The Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and (on more than one occasion) the Capitals, have all fallen victim to the King Henrik and his army in game seven.
Over the course of the six straight game seven victories by Lundqvist and co., he has sported a .973 save percentage, 0.81 goals against average, stopped 179 of 184 shots and allowed only five goals. That is unbelievably dominant. Let’s take a look at those six games.
It began against the Ottawa Senators in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The series of course went to game seven and with goals by Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, Lundqvist made 26 saves and backstopped the Rangers to a 2-1 win. Next up, the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and another game seven. Lundqvist would make 22 saves and lead the Rangers to another 2-1 win with goals by Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto. The Legend was beginning to grow.
If there’s a Game 7, you want Henrik Lundqvist in net. pic.twitter.com/NJuHlRxNz3
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 14, 2015
In the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Rangers would meet their familiar foes, the Washington Capitals yet again and once again, both teams refused to have a series end before game seven. The end result was once again a New York Rangers win but this game was never close as the Rangers overwhelmed the Capitals with goals from Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Callahan and Mats Zuccarello. Lundqvist wouldn’t allow a goal and had 35 saves in the shutout win.
In 2014, the Rangers would meet their division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The battle between the two teams ended in a tightly contested game seven on Madison Square Garden ice that the Rangers won 2-1. Goals by Daniel Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot along with 26 saves by Lundqvist did the Flyers in. In the next round, the Rangers found themselves down three games to one against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team charged back, forced and game seven and due to a 35 save effort by Lundqvist and goals by Brian Boyle and Brad Richards, the Rangers would win yet another game seven. Lundqvist and the Rangers just would not lose when it was all on the line.
We have now come back full circle. In the second round of these 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, the familiar Capitals had the Rangers pinned against the ropes with a 3-1 lead in the series. These Rangers would not die though. After fighting to force a game seven back at the Garden, the Rangers would beat the Capitals in overtime off a goal by Derek Stepan. Lundqvist made 35 saves in the win and was once again rock solid in net. You just can’t beat Lundqvist in a game seven. The legend continues to grow.
Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and now Henrik Lundqvist. They are the only three goalies in NHL history to have won six game sevens in the playoffs. Lundqvist himself holds the record of six straight game seven victories. Basically, if you needed one goalie to backstop your team to one win, you would want Henrik Lundqvist. He just seems to take his game to another level when it’s all on the line and there is nothing left to lose.
This season is not over yet Rangers fans. The Tampa Bay Lightning now present the next challenge for the Rangers and the Rangers will definitely need Henrik Lundqvist to be the brick wall that he is in order for them to have a chance against Tampa’s high powered offense anchored by Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. With Henrik Lundqvist in net, the Rangers have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done since the Penguins did it in 2008 and 2009: win the Prince of Wales Trophy in back to back seasons and head back to the Stanley Cup Final. If this series with the Lightning goes seven, don’t sweat it Rangers fans, you have a King guarding your crease who only seems to raise his game when his kingdom is threatened.