30 Days of Lundqvist: The Day He Threw the Net
Clearly we're not going in chronological order. But that's kind of fun, right? No? Too bad.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Henrik Lundqvist hurling his net was that it didn't happen sooner. (Second most surprising? He didn't aim it at Dan Girardi.) So why did he decide to do it on Thursday, March 3, 2016, six minutes into the second period of an away game against Pittsburgh?
Let's watch the replay. A really nice chance by the Rangers (but you missed, Hayes, so stop staring like you're stoned and get back in the game) turns into Sidney Crosby's rush down the left side. Girardi swishes his stick around in Crosby's general direction; he has more hope of hypnotizing the most goddamn irritating best hockey player in the world than he does of taking the puck away from him. Under essentially no pressure at all, Crosby easily gets the pass off to Patric Hornquist.
Fortunately, Ryan McDonagh a) actually knows how to defense and b) is where he should be, even though Crosby beat him back across the blue line. Hornquist has the puck on his stick; Lundqvist comes out so far to stop him that, had a stray Penguin been positioned to pick up the back pass Hornquist makes instead of shooting, they could have gift-wrapped the puck AND written Lundqvist a card before burying it in the completely empty net.
Girardi, who is doing not a damn thing EXCEPT LEAVING SIDNEY *(&^)*& CROSBY OPEN AT THE TOP OF THE CREASE, also misses getting control of the back pass. But that goes mostly unnoticed as McDonagh slams into into Hank. There was nothing he could have done.
McDonagh is slow to get up; Lundqvist's stick ends up in the corner. Lundqvist clearly screams for a whistle and doesn't get one, so he knocks the net over. Pittsburgh, who had possession at the time, is displeased to say the least. Dylan McIlrath (HELLO LARGE LOST SON KICKING ASS IN GRAND RAPIDS) looks as if he's about to try to console his goaltender, who is still spouting invective in at least two languages, then thinks better of it and skates away.
Things pretty much fell apart at that point, as the Penguins made up for their lost chance by scoring three goals in less than three minutes. After the game, Alain Vigneault told reporters that Lundqvist had been suffering neck spasms. He did not return for the third period.
Later, when he spoke to the press, Lundqvist doubled down. “When I realized the puck is in our end, I was not really ready to play. That was the truth,” Lundqvist said. “I don’t know how I came up with the conclusion to move the net, but that’s what came up in my head, and I’m not gonna apologize for it because I was just not in a position where I could play the game. I needed a break.”
(Note to self: use "that's what came up in my head" as excuse for wrong answers to Mike's trivia questions on the podcast.)
Marc-Andre Fleury earned NYR fans' ire for life by calling Lundqvist's action "baby stuff." But Hank received surprising support from Braden Holtby (who I've always thought wanted to be Lundqvist when he grew up). Holtby called the delay of game penalty "absurd" and declared that Lundqvist "did the right thing."
The bigger, grimmer picture? For whatever reason, this game was a turning point in Lundqvist's career against the Pens. Before this, as Adam Gretz points out, he "had their number," allowing only three goals on 119 shots. After this?
Three goals on three shots. (Yes, he was hurt, but in terms of narrative ... oof.) And do we really need to talk about the 2016 playoffs? No, I didn't think so.
As for Hank's behavior, I mean, come on. If Lundqvist looked like, say, Tuukka Rask, he'd be just another temperamental goalie. And I've never seen him slash anybody in the head. But because he looks like a Norse god and models his own underwear, opposing fans like to call him a drama king, among other, worse things.
As for me, I love every minute of it. I love that he did this in Pittsburgh. I love the immediate evolution of incredulity into rage on the Pens fans' faces. I love that he gives no ... well, you know.
And I, too, plan to throw something big the next time I "need a break."