A goaltender holds the most high-pressure position on the ice, as their performance can make or break a team. Henrik Lundqvist, the New York Rangers’ backbone in net, certainly can attest to that as his team has relied on him to carry them.
The pressure and intensity only rise in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Lundqvist’s stellar play and competitive nature have allowed him to thrive in that environment, regardless of the stakes. Between the pipes for the Rangers, the stakes couldn’t have been higher for Lundqvist at times, as his team has faced a number of Game 7s that demanded a game-changing performance from The King.
Lundqvist’s first Game 7 appearance was on April 28, 2009 against the Washington Capitals in the quarterfinals, which resulted in a 2-1 loss. The .917 save percentage Lundqvist earned though, remains the lowest of his career in Game 7s.
His next Game 7 wasn’t until the 2012 quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators, when Lundqvist backstopped the Rangers to a 2-1 win with 26 saves. The following round, the Blueshirts found themselves in another Game 7. There, Lundqvist stopped all but one shot to lead his team to a 2-1 win against the Capitals.
The following postseason the Rangers again faced the Capitals in a Game 7, and it was Lundqvist that got the Rangers there, forcing the decisive game with a 27-save shutout in Game 6. He closed out the series with a 35-save shutout on May 13, and those back-to-back shutouts are standout moments engraved in Lundqvist’s exceptional career.
In the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lundqvist was victorious in Game 7s over both Pennsylvania teams, first recording a 26-save, 2-1 Round 1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 30, and then notching a 35-save, 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2 on May 13.
For the third straight year, Lundqvist found himself in a Game 7 on May 13 in 2015. And yet again, on May 13 in a Game 7, Lundqvist made 35-saves to take his team deeper in the playoffs, this time against the Capitals. This win marked six straight Game 7 wins, culminating in a .971 save percentage (with a .962 overall Game 7 save percentage at that point in his career), making him the first goaltender in NHL history to record six consecutive Game 7 wins, and one of only three goaltenders to win six total Game 7s (along with Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy).
After reaching that milestone, Lundqvist unfortunately didn’t extend his streak. In the 2015 Eastern Conference Final, the Rangers forced a Game 7, only to fall 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, their goaltender wasn't the reason for their elimination, as there were inexplicable coaching decisions on both offense and defense that sealed their fate.
Still, even with that last Game 7 loss, Lundqvist still holds an impressive 6-2 record and boasts a .958 save percentage in these intense games – making it an outstanding accomplishment in the future Hall of Famer’s career.