The 2011-12 season was quite an interesting one for the New York Rangers, and a memorable one for Henrik Lundqvist. The Blueshirts finished with an Eastern Conference best record of 51-24-7 with 109 points, two points behind the Alain Vigneault-coached Vancouver Canucks. The Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since the 1996 season, but were dispatched by the New Jersey Devils.
Before delving into the awesome season Lundqvist had, here is some context to set the scene.
The Rangers had some talented players on the roster, but it also featured names such as Mike Rupp, Johnny “Malkin” Mitchell, Steve Eminger, Jeff Woywitka, Andre Deveaux and John Scott. In total, 30 skaters appeared in at least one game.
This was a team driven by the excellent play of Lundqvist, as they were only slightly above average offensively. Their top three scorers were Marian Gaborik with 41 goals, 35 assists and 76 points, Brad Richards with 25 goals, 41 assists and 66 points, and Ryan Callahan with 29 goals and 25 assists for 54 points. Outside of that it was very much a team by committee, which hasn’t changed much in recent years.
Overall they ranked 11th in the league with a goals per game average of 2.71 and third in goals against per game with a mark of 2.22.
Lundqvist was very determined and motivated for the 2011-12 season, as he was furious after having his season end with a 4-1 series defeat in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the hands of the Washington Capitals. His regular season was top notch with 36 wins a 0.923 save percentage, a 2.28 goals against average, and 11 shutouts. This stat line earned him a fourth-place finish in the Vezina trophy race.
When the 2011-12 regular season ended, Lundqvist’s numbers included 39 wins, a 0.930 save percentage, a 1.97 goals against average and eight shutouts.
The only other goalies within range include Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith. Quick finished with 35 wins, a 0.929 save percentage, a 1.95 goals against average and 10 shutouts. Smith on the other hand finished with 38 wins, a 0.930 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average.
Smith was likely done by his goals against average, but he had a phenomenal season considering the amount of rubber thrown his way. That year, Smith stopped 1,862 shots – technically he allowed 21 more goals than Hank, but in all fairness faced an additional 253 shots.
The numbers were good enough that Hank took home his first, and to date only, Vezina trophy, collecting 17 first-place votes, 11 second-place votes and two third-place votes. Quick came in second with six first-place votes, nine second-place votes, and six third-place votes. Pekka Rinne took third with four first-place votes, four second-place votes, and 10 third-place votes.
It is very possible that Hank benefited from the fact that the Western Conference was stacked that year and the vote was split among a number of goalies. Other notable finishes include Smith in fourth place, Brian Elliot in fifth, and Jaroslav Halak in sixth. Marc-Andre Fleury finished seventh and was the only other Eastern Conference goalie to received a vote.
Lundqvist was also honored with a third-place finish in the Hart Trophy vote for league MVP and the Ted Lindsay trophy for Most Outstanding Player as voted upon by the NHLPA. Evgeni Malkin captured both tropies that year, and it is hard to argue considering he finished the year with 109 points in 75 games, for a blistering points per game average of 1.45.
Overall the 2011-12 season didn’t end the way the Rangers wanted, but it was still a memorable one for Hank. It is hard to believe that this is the only season in which he has captured the trophy for top netminder, but that is something that continues to push Lundqvist to elevate his game year in and year out.