It was not exactly the most inspiring goaltending performance I’d ever seen… through two periods when the New York Rangers faced off against the Minnesota Wild on October 27, 2014. To be fair, the first forty minutes of this game were about as dreadful as could be in every respect, with the Rangers largely ceding puck possession and scoring chances to the Wild through the first period, and then giving up three unanswered goals to Minnesota in the second.
Things seemed pretty dire, and most fans had left the game early by the time the clock wound down on the second period. Why on Earth then would we want to reminisce about this game? Well, because what happened next.
The Rangers came out swinging in the third period, as Kevin Klein opened up the scoring with a blast from the blue line. Rick Nash then scooped a rebound in front to get the Rangers within one goal, and although Hank gave up another one to Jason Zucker, neither he nor the rest of the team quit. From there, Derick Brassard notched another one off of a beautiful setup by Carl Hagelin’s shot off the post. Anthony Duclair scored his first NHL goal to tie the game 4-4 and Mats Zuccarello sealed the deal off a beautiful feed from his BFF Brass.
The whole comeback though, hinged on Henrik. All of the scoring in the world wouldn’t have mattered if he let up goals like he did in the second period, and although Zucker kept the Blueshirts on notice with his third period goal, Hank didn’t give up and neither did the team in front of him.
It was a testament to this team’s perseverance and ability to take a hit and keep on coming. Nobody had it worse through the first two periods than Lundqvist, but that didn’t stop him from coming up with saves when his team needed them the most, allowing them to worked their magic on the Wild down the other end of the ice.
When we think of Henrik Lundqvist, we often think of acrobatic saves and the ability to completely shut down a team in the playoffs, but games like this one in some ways matter just as much as they demonstrate his total determination and lack of quit.
Part of the reason last year’s performance from him doesn’t phase me is games like this – they micro-cosmically show that if anyone is able to bounce back, it’s Lundqvist. Whether it’s a bad forty minutes or a bad stretch of games, you just know that Hank has what it takes mentally to power through and pull it back together, often times coming back stronger than before. That, and so much more, is why he’s The King.