Lundqvist: The New Richter?
Since the offseason began, it seems that New York Rangers pundits and fans alike have focused on the following topics and questions: line combinations; prospects; who is going to be the club’s No.1 center?; how will Marian Gaborik play in his first season on Broadway?; what will head coach John Tortorella be like for a full season?
While these topics are great fodder around the water cooler and for countless numbers of Ranger blogs, I would like to go in a different direction and may be spark a debate with the following question: Is Henrik Lundqvist the new Mike Richter?
It’s a question that has probably been going through Blueshirt fans’ minds ever since the “King” burst onto the scene in 2005-06 and had one heck of a rookie season in posting 30 wins, 2 shutouts, a 2.24 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, good enough to place him among the finalists for the Vezina Trophy Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, something he would also do in 2007 and 2008.
The following seasons, Lundqvist consistently put up good numbers, got his club into the playoffs, won a few playoff rounds and won the hearts of Ranger fans, bringing his chant to tri-state area locales such as the Nassau Veterans Coliseum (a.k.a. the Mausoleum) and the Prudential Center (a.k.a. MSG 2). And not only has he won the hearts of the fans due to his on-ice play, but he’s won it due to his contributions off the ice with his charitable work for organizations such as the Garden of Dreams.
Doesn’t this come close to sounding like another star Broadway athlete that played between the pipes on Broadway for many years, one that put up solid numbers on more than a few sub-par clubs, won a Stanley Cup with a nearly perfect team, did a ton of charity work and was an all-around good guy? In my eyes, and may be yours, right now at least, Henrik Lundqvist is almost equivalent to the all-time winningest goaltender in Rangers’ history that starred for the Blueshirts for 14 seasons.
So, you might ask, what’s the debate here? Well, for one thing, there is on-ice play. In his 14 years in the National Hockey League, Richter put up pretty solid numbers, especially considering the fact that he played on several non-playoff teams (1998-2003):
- 301 wins
- 24 shutouts
- 2.89 goals against average
- .904 save percentage
- Stanley Cup in 1994
- 41 wins
- 9 shutouts
- 2.68 goals against average
- .909 save percentage
- Played in the 1992 All-Star Game in Philadelphia
- 1994 All-Star Game MVP at Madison Square Garden
- 1996 World Cup Champion and MVP
- Played in the 2000 All-Star Game in Toronto
- 2002 Winter Olympics Silver Medal
- Member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame
- Has number up in the rafters at Madison Square Garden
Obviously, pretty impressive numbers over a career that may end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day. On the other side, you look at Lundqvist and see that he has posted stellar numbers in his first four seasons in the NHL:
- 142 wins
- 21 shutouts
- 2.31 goals against average
- .917 save percentage
- 14 wins
- 16 losses
- 2.66 goals against average
- .907 save percentage
- Won the 2002 Gold Medal as the goaltender for Sweden in the Inline Hockey World Championships (Interesting, right?)
- 2006 Olympic Gold Medal with Sweden
- Named to the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2006
- Finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 2006, 2007 and 2008
- Played in 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal
As you can tell, Lundqvist has done a lot in his first four seasons between the pipes for the Blueshirts and chances are is that he will continue to have success. However, will he be as successful as Mike Richter and lead them to a Stanley Cup like Richter did back in 1994?
More importantly, is Henrik Lundqvist the new Mike Richter on Broadway?
I’d like to say a big thank you to Rick Carpiniello for allowing me to post here and hope that I will get another chance to do it during the season. You can also visit my blog over at Kukla’s Korner.