Rangers Greatest Hits: Henrik Lundqvist wins Vezina Trophy 2011-12

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
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Before Igor Shesterkin won the Veniza Trophy in 2020-21, only five New York Rangers netminders had previously claimed the prestigious award. First, Dave Kerr took home the trophy in 1939-40, the last time the club would win the Stanley Cup before 1994. Then, Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villemure combined to win it in 1970-71. John Vanbiesbrouck would pick up his during the 1985-86 campaign.

Considering the Rangers tend to win awards decades apart, Henrik Lundqvist would become the team’s next Vezina Trophy winner with a season for the ages in 2011-12. The Swedish-born netminder would gather the most first-place votes to win the award; however, he didn’t finish as the statistical leader in many goalie categories. 

Interestingly, this victory in 2011-12 was the only time Lundqvist won the award, finishing as a top-six finalist for a decade from 2005 to 2015. Despite only winning the Vezina Trophy and never capturing the Stanley Cup, his performance over his 887 NHL game career and representing Sweden earned him an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2023. 

As we look back at his spectacular season of 2011-12, that particular campaign could be considered the pinnacle of his career, which was cut short due to a medical issue after 15 years.

Related: Henrik Lundqvist to be inducted into the Hall of Fame

Henrik Lundqvist overcomes rocky start

After getting bounced from the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Capitals to end the 2010-11 season, Lundqvist and the Rangers were out to get better results in 2011-12. However, he stumbled to start the new year, losing his first three starts and finishing October with a 2-3-3 record despite posting a 2.00 goals-against average (GAA) and a .929 save percentage (SV%). Meanwhile, the Rangers didn’t fair any better, compiling a 4-3-3 record through the first ten games. 

But, the slump didn’t last long, with Lundqvist stringing together a five-game win streak to begin November. Besides losing to the Florida Panthers on November 23, he collected an impressive 8-1 record in nine games that month, with a .937% and a 1.88 GAA. Ultimately, because of their goalie’s stellar play, New York went 9-2-0 in the month, improving to 13-5-3 on the season. 

Shockingly, Lundqvist only got better in December, posting a then-season-high .944 SV% and 1.60 GAA in ten games despite collecting a 6-3-1 record. Statistically, heading into the new year, the native of Are, Sweden, had a 16-7-4 record in 27 games, with three shutouts, a .937 SV%, and a 1.92 GAA. Meanwhile, the Rangers were 23-9-4 after 36 games, outscoring opponents 107-77. 

Lundqvist earns votes thanks to extraordinary start to 2012

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At 29 years old, many fans were waiting for the moment when Lundqvist would ascend to the top of the NHL as the league’s best goalie. After compiling some of the best statistics of his career to start the year, many wondered if they were on the verge of witnessing history. 

Of course, he didn’t slow down in January, recording a 6-3-0 record in nine starts while maintaining a .939 SV% and 1.77 GAA. Unfortunately, Lundqvist lost his seven-game win streak during the month, which began with wins over the New Jersey Devils (Dec. 20), Philadelphia Flyers (Dec. 23), New York Islanders (Dec. 26), and Panthers (Dec. 30). 

As the calendar flipped, he continued to rack up victories, including contests against the Flyers (Jan. 2), Pittsburgh Penguins (Jan. 6), and Phoenix Coyotes (Jan. 10). Statistically, he gave up just eight during the streak, good enough for a 1.14 GAA and .962 SV%, earning a shutout, too. 

However, Lundqvist still had another level to his game, roaring through February with an 8-2-0 record, collecting three shutouts, a .951 SV%, and a 1.30 GAA. Ultimately, thanks to their netminder’s heroics, the Rangers were rolling, going 9-3-1 in February, giving them a 40-15-6 record after 61 games. Realistically, every win and point mattered in the standings down the stretch, as the Penguins and Flyers kept New York on their toes in an intense battle for the Atlantic Division title.

Lundqvist was busy in March, suiting up for a season-high 13 games, and with a heavier workload, his numbers suffered. Although he still went 8-4-1, his SV% dipped to .897, and his GAA went up to 2.53. However, these subpar numbers didn’t impact his overall totals, which stood at 38-16-5, .932 SV%, and 1.93 GAA after 59 games.

Although he finished March on a four-game win streak, his sixth streak of the campaign, Lundqvist lost his final three starts of the year, including the worst performance of the year in the finale. Despite giving up four goals on six occasions, nothing compared to a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on April 7. As New York clung to a lead atop the Atlantic Divison, Lundqvist made just 13 saves on 17 shots to record a .762 SV%, a terrible way to end such a successful season. 

After the regular season, Lundqvist led the Rangers into the Eastern Conference Final, beating out the Ottawa Senators and Capitals in back-to-back seven-game series before falling to the Devils in six games. Furthermore, he compiled a 10-10 record in the postseason with a .931 SV% and a 1.90 GAA. Overall, in 82 games, he went 49-28-5, with 11 shutouts, a .930 SV%, and a 1.96 GAA. 

Inside the numbers of Lundqvist’s Vezina Trophy season

If Lundqvist had anyone to thank for the best season of his career, he could have started with the Flyers since he won all six meetings with the divisional rival, earning a shutout and posting a 1.83 GAA and .942 SV%. Surprisingly, the 11 goals he surrendered to Philadelphia was a season-high against any opponent, just beating out the Toronto Maple Leafs (ten) by a single tally. 

Additionally, he collected eight shutouts against the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Devils, Nashville Predators, Islanders, Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets. Moreover, his best statistics came against the Predators (1.000 SV% and 0.00 GAA), while his worst came against the Chicago Blackhawks (.857 SV% and 3.07 GAA). 

Lundqvist’s busiest night came against the Bruins on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) when he collected a 42-save shutout at TD Garden. Interestingly, he made 40 saves against the Canucks on Oct. 18, also earning a shutout in that contest, meaning in both games he had at least 40 saves, he had shutouts. Overall, Lundqivst was 3-0-1 in games where he faced 40 or more shots. 

Moreover, he lost every game that went into overtime (0-2) or shootout (0-5), including posting a 0-3 record in playoff overtime games that season. However, Lundqvist was between the pipes for both wins when New York scored a season-high six goals against the Capitals (Nov. 25) and Panthers (Dec. 11). Meanwhile, he skated in five of the six contests where the Rangers failed to score, getting shutout by the Oilers (Oct. 22), Dallas Stars (Dec. 13), Senators (Jan. 12), Devils (Feb.7), and Penguins (Feb. 21).  

Interestingly, Lundqvist didn’t lead a single statistical category, just ranking in the top five in wins, save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts. 

What happened to Lundqvist after the 2011-12 season?

After winning the Vezina Trophy with 120 votes over Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne, Lundqvist would play the next eight seasons in New York before the team bought out his contract at the end of the 2019-20 season. During his time on Broadway, he would become the franchise’s winningest goalie, finishing his Hall of Fame career with 489 wins, smashing Mike Richter’s total of 301. 

Although he was already an Olympic Gold Medalist (2006), Lundqvist would eventually win a World Championship with his twin brother Joel in 2017, coming one championship short of joining the exclusive Triple Gold Club. Despite all his heroics over the years, he only played in the Stanley Cup Final once, in 2014, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. 

Ultimately, he finished his career playing in 887 games, compiling a 459-310-96 record with 64 shutouts, a .918 SV%, and a 2.43 GAA. However, he never duplicated the success of that magical 2011-12 season, failing to reach a .930 SV% or post a GAA under 2.00 for the remainder of his career. 

Even though Lundqvist recorded an almost unbreakable number of wins in his career (for the Rangers), he failed to win the grandest prize. Unfortunately, this omission from his resume has left many fans undecided about his standing as the Rangers’ best goalie of all time. Despite what people think about one of the game’s greatest netminders of all time, his #30 hangs in the rafters at Madison Square Garden, his plaque will hang at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and his name will forever be displayed on the Vezina Trophy.

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