We end our countdown with the most predictable result.
#1 Henrik Lundqvist
We’re not gonna do this like the others, because Hank isn’t like every other Ranger that’s put on that jersey over the past ten years. Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers through what one could argue was a golden age on Broadway. Over the last decade Lundqvist cemented himself as one of three (or four if you’re being generous) best goaltenders of all time and without a doubt grabbed the title of the greatest goaltender in franchise history, even without winning a Stanley Cup.
To go year by year through Henrik’s decade would seem too simple, I think. Through the Tortorella shot blocking days, Hank was there. Into the Alain Vigneault-led golden years, Lundqvist solidified his reign on top of the goaltending world, with the help of a defense that did everything in it’s power to test Hank’s mettle and mental well-being. The Vezina and All-Star teams don’t quite speak to just how good Henrik was and how often he had to be otherworldly for the Rangers to even have a chance. As the years went by, Hank was also challenged to elevate his game by a number of solid backups in Steven Valliquette, Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta, and Alexandar Georgiev but through it all, Henrik showed why we call him The King time and time again.
There are also the signature moments; stopping Danny Briere on a penalty shot during the 2011 Winter Classic, back to back shut-outs of the Washington Capitals during the 2013 playoffs, keeping the Rangers alive against the Penguins in 2014, and, of course, leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in two decades.
All of this while dealing with a team that seemingly went out of their way to make Hank’s life that much harder. The systemic defensive issues that plagued the end of Alain Vigneualt’s tenure forced the Swedish netminder to continue to be great because being just good enough was never going to be enough for the team to win. The Rangers put the world and then some on Henrik’s shoulders and he handled the weight of it and there was never a perfect hair out of place.
Now, though, with the Rangers fully entrenched in a rebuild and a 37 year old Lundqvist entering the last years of his contract, his future with the team looks...muddied. Igor Shesterkin, the forgone heir apparent looks primed to claim the crease and usher in a new era of greatness between the pipes. Henrik will not be forgotten as he plays through the final two years of his deal, and the moment he retires we can all start booking trips to Toronto to see his Hall of Fame plaque.
My Favorite Moment: Do we call it “The Save”? Because I really want to call it “The Save”