New York Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist announced at breakup day that he would join Team Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Championship. This will be Lundqvist’s first appearance at the World Championship since 2008. Including this year, Lundqvist has represented Sweden four times at this tournament (2004, 2005, 2008).
Other than the World Championship, Lundqvist has played for his home country in the World Junior Championship in 1999-2000, where he won a bronze medal. He has also played in net for Sweden in the Olympics in 2006, 2010, and 2014 – winning a gold medal in 2006 and a silver medal in 2014. Additionally, Lundqvist started this season representing Sweden in the World Cup of Hockey.
Lundqvist will be joining Viktor Fasth (CSKA Moscow of the KHL, formerly of the Anaheim Ducks) and Eddie Lack (Carolina Hurricanes) in net for Sweden. In their first five games of the preliminary round, Sweden has gone 3-1-1.
Although Lundqvist may have had a lesser regular season, 0.918 5v5 save percentage and 3.16 goals saved above average (GSAA), his game only improved in the postseason – as highlighted by his 0.937 5v5 save percentage, 4.74 GSAA, and 0.871 high-danger save percentage, despite the dismal defense in front of him.
Conversely to his season with the Rangers, he will have a stellar defense in front of him in this tournament. With Team Sweden, Lundqvist will have the defensive support of John Klingberg (Dallas Stars), Anton Stralman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes), Alexander Edler (Vancouver Canucks), Jonas Brodin (Minnesota Wild), and Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning).
Since the Rangers’ season ended earlier than Lundqvist anticipated, he wants to extend his season with Team Sweden as he explained at break up day, “There's a lot of gas left in the tank here. I was hoping to play [in the Stanley Cup Playoffs] for another month. That was our goal and my mindset. It was very disappointing obviously to end the season like we did, but you have to accept… it’s over here.”
The NHL has opted not to participate in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, which limits Lundqvist’s chances to play for Sweden. As long as he is a part of the Rangers, he ideally will be playing deeper into the playoffs and will not be able to partake in the World Championship. “I see this as an opportunity for me to play for my country one more time, and with my brother. I'm gonna go there and try to finish really strong.” Lundqvist said on break up day.
Other than extending his season, an incentive for Henrik to play for Sweden was the opportunity to play with his twin brother, Joel, as they have not played together in 12 years. Joel, who plays center, is the captain of Team Sweden at the World Championships.
Joel was also drafted in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft going 68th overall by the Dallas Stars, while Lundqvist was selected 205th overall. While playing with the Stars from 2006-2009, he earned 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) in 132 games. In 2009, he returned to Sweden to play for Frolunda HC.
Joel currently plays for Frolunda HC in Sweden, where he has served as captain since 2009. With Frolunda HC, Joel won the Swedish Hockey League championship last season. Additionally, Joel and his team won the Champions Hockey League Championship this and last season.
This season, while playing with Frolunda in the SHL, Joel scored 26 points (9 goals, 17 assist) in 51 regular season games. Then in the playoffs, Joel scored 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 14 games. He also earned accolades for having the best face-off percentage this season (65.9%). After, he went on to win the Champions Hockey League, scoring 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 13 games – where he became the tournament’s Most Valuable Players.
Including this year’s, Joel has participated in seven World Championships (2006, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015). With Team Sweden, he has earned the gold medal in 2006 and 2013, as well as a bronze medal in 2009 and 2014.
In addition to the World Championship, Joel has played internationally in the World Junior Championship, winning the bronze medal with his twin brother in 1999-2000.
Playing in the World Championship may be a reminder for Henrik that his season with the Rangers ended prematurely, but playing for his home country of Sweden with his twin brother should be a special and refreshing experience. The success of this tournament will not take away the disappointment of the Rangers’ elimination, but could revitalize his confidence for next season with the Rangers.