19 years ago the New York Rangers drafted this unknown Swedish goaltender by the name of Henrik Lundqvist. Little was known about him other than he was nicknamed “The King” and that’s all New Yorkers needed to know about him to fall in love with the next best goaltender in franchise history.
He sure did live up to the hype his rookie year in October of 2005 when an injured Kevin Weeks opened the door for Hank to truly be anointed The King of New York.
What was even better for him was to start his career than with the bitter rival New Jersey Devils (3-2 Shootout Loss). A week later he made his debut at home at the world’s famous arena Madison Square Garden defeating the Devils 4-1.
On October 17th 2005, he recorded his first shutout against the Florida Panthers. It was only his 5th career game, and he was the first rookie to do so in a Blueshirt since John Vanbiesbrook in 1985. He was also the first Ranger rookie to record 20 or more wins (30) in a season since Mike Richter (21) in 1990/1991. He also broke the franchise record of 29 wins.
He also finished top 15 in the following categories GAA (2.24, 5th), Save % (.922, 4th), Wins (30, 11th), and Shutouts (2, 15th). Unfortunately, he did not translate his stellar play into the playoffs going 0-3 with a 4.40 GAA and a .835 Save %. Oddly he was named a finalist for the Vezina (best goalie in the league) but not the Calder (best rookie in the league)
Forever a Blushirt 2006-2011
Lundqvist never looked back after his rookie year as he was the team’s primary goaltender until 2019/2020. In 2006 he became the first Ranger to record a playoff shutout since Mike Richter in 1997 which was also the teams first home playoff win since 1997. He was nominated for the Vezina again, only to place third. In 2008 he signed what was the highest paying contract for a goaltender at 6 years / $6.875 Million. He rewarded them with becoming the first Ranger since 1970/1971 to record eight shutouts and another 30 win season making him and Ron Hextall the only two goalies to record 30+ win in their first three seasons.
In 2009 he was selected to his first all star game where he shined in the Shutout Skills competition. Later that year, he became the first goalie to record 30 wins in his first four years, and then did it again in 2010 recording 30 victory’s extending his own record. In 2011 he was named to his second All Star team and was the first time in 57 years to face and stop a penalty shot in the game. In February of 2011, he earned his 200th victory in front of the home crowd against the L.A. Kings. He also won another 30 games bringing him to 30 or more in his first six seasons.
End of a Legend In New York 2012-2020
During Hanks prime, he won another 30 games in 2012, yet again extending his streak of 7 years of 30 or more wins. He also won the Vezina In 2012. In 2013, he took over the All-time leader in shootout wins. He also won his 268th victory, passing Eddie Giacomin for second all-time, only behind Mike Richter. In 2013 he signed another contract for seven years for $59.5 million, again making him the highest paid goaltender. In 2014, he passed Ritcher with his 302nd victory and passed Giacomin for 50 shutouts with New York. In 2014, he broke another Blueshirt record with 43 career playoff wins held by Richter. And finally made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to the L.A. Kings.
In 2016, Lundqvist recorded his 11th straight 20+ win season, passing Tony Esposito and Martin Brodeur. He also recorded his 60th shutout. In December, he recorded his 390th victory that made him the all time leader in wins by a European born goaltender. Then in 2018, he won his 400th victory becoming the 12th goaltender to do so, and he was also the fastest and only Ranger to do so. He also is the only goaltender to record 20 or more wins for 13 conservative seasons. In 2019, he became the 3rd goaltender to play 850 games with one team. He recorded his 455th victory making him the 5th all time goalie and the second to do so with one team.
Life After Hank 2020-Future
All great things must come to an end. It will be a weird sight not seeing #30 between the pipes in MSG. It will take some getting used to but the franchise prepared ufor this day by easing Igor Shesterkin in for us to now love and enjoy. So from all the Hen-rik chants we’ve grown to love and cheer, we go to I-gor, in hopes to finally find our Stanley Cup that we’ve been waiting for since 1994.
I speak for myself and every other Ranger fan reading this. You will be missed and best of luck to what your future holds whether it’s retirement or skating for another team. The next time we see you will be when your #30 is hanging with the rest of the Blueshirt greats in the rafters!