Lundqvist reliable in Rangers' nets

New York's Henrik Lundqvist finished the regular season with a 33-24-3 record, a .920 save percentage, and a 2.36 goals against average.
New York's Henrik Lundqvist finished the regular season with a 33-24-3 record, a .920 save percentage, and a 2.36 goals against average. (BRAD PENNER / USA Today)
Posted: April 18, 2014

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist admitted he needed a major refresher earlier this season. Considered among the top goalies in the NHL, the 32-year-old Lundqvist wasn't living up to that billing during a frustrating beginning.

In early December, the pending free agent signed a seven-year, $59.5 million contract. But during that month he was 4-4 with a 3.08 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. It was his worst month for the latter two statistics this season.

Yet after that month, he reverted to form.

Now Lundqvist is among the central figures when the Rangers begin their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the Flyers.

Lundqvist's record the first three months was 12-15. He said he had to simplify his approach.

"I had to come back to doing basic stuff and mentally I needed a healthy approach of not trying to overthink or do too much," he said after Wednesday's workout at the Rangers practice facility. "You want to turn things around, sometimes you try too much, you try too hard and lose your perspective a little bit."

So the simpler approach worked.

It started with the Rangers; continued during the Olympics, in which he led Sweden to a silver medal; and then finished strong again with New York.

For the season Lundqvist went 33-24-3 with a 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage.

Like their goalie, the Rangers showed continued improvement during the season. They began the year with nine road games, going 3-6, but eventually finished second in the Metropolitan Division with 96 points, two ahead of the third-place Flyers.

"To be able to turn around halfway through, it is a learning experience and I am happy at the way we responded," Lundqvist said.

This is Lundqvist's first playoff series against a Flyers team he has dominated. In his career against the Flyers, he is 27-13-3 with a 2.49 GAA, .916 save percentage, and four shutouts.

Lundqvist is in his ninth season with the Rangers and they have qualified for the playoffs all but one. He owns the team career records for wins (309) and shutouts (50). And it's easy to see the comfort level he provides his teammates.

"There is nobody I would want to have more as my goaltender for sure," standout Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "He is the backbone of this team and helped us get where we want to be after the rough start."

The only blemish, so to speak, on Lundqvist's resumé is his playoff record. He is 30-37 with eight shutouts for the Rangers, but even that deserves closer examination. (His regular season record is 309-195-62.)

Lundqvist's regular-season and postseason statistics are strikingly similar. His career regular-season GAA is 2.26 and his save percentage is .920. Lundqvist's career playoff GAA is 2.28 and his save percentage is an identical .920.

Even though he's used to the postseason drill, Lundqvist admits it isn't always easy to stay even keel.

"With the atmosphere you are amped up going into the game," he said. "But this is what you work for all year to get here."

Lundqvist once advanced as far as the conference finals. That occurred in 2011-2012, when the Rangers lost in six games to the New Jersey Devils. In 20 games that year, Lundqvist had a 1.82 GAA and .931 save percentage.

"It was a lot of fun, it was intense and it was a lot of hockey but I really enjoyed it," Lundqvist said.

And he keeps refining his game in order to get another shot at an extended postseason run.

"It was tough to come up short [in 2012], but it was a great run," he said.

Then smiling, he added, "I definitely want to do it again, but this time I want to go all the way."


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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