90 on 95

Sports, rumors, and humor from the Ben Franklin to the George Washington

The Thing About Henrik


I had this red blanket in college, all five years (hi mom!), and it brought me a lot of good. It was warm in the winter time, and yet not insufferable when the weather turned. Girls loved it and I’d like to think it was what kept them hanging around a little longer in the morning (that and the free weed.) It was incredibly soft, like an Oliver Perez fastball, and no matter how many times I washed it (“you pissed the bed again??”) it never lost that first time softness. You could almost say it was the perfect blanket. However I’ll be the first to tell you that underneath that mountain of softness, there was one problem with that blanket: it was too comfortable. The blanket was so good at keeping in your warmth and making you feel like you were nestled inside Brian Wilson’s beard (that’s two baseball references in a hockey post, it must be close to Opening Day.) The problem with this was that you never wanted to get out from under that blanket, it was like your own personal heaven. I can confidently say that that blanket was responsible for at least a third of all the classes I missed during college. It was a double edged sword. So comfortable you can’t help but get inside, yet too comfortable you didn’t want to leave. Like the world’s best vagina. Many of my roommates would come back from class to find me nestled in that blanket, sleeping in my very own Disney Land. “Red blanket kept you from class again today, huh,” Captain Dan would shout, before we’d fire up the Fifa and take a few waterfalls. The blanket was the best thing to happen to me, and at the same time, the worst.

That brings us to Henrik Lundqvist, goaltender extraordinaire for the New York Rangers. In 61 games this year, he has a career record 11 shutouts, with 6 games left.  Yes those 11 shutouts also lead the league. His goals against and save percentage aren’t to shabby either, a modest 2.24 and .924 respectively, also both career bests should they hold. The Rags are currently in a playoff race, his goaltending no doubt a huge contributor as they are 5th in goals allowed in the league. All this while on pace to play in the least amount of games in a season in his career since his rookie year, when he played 53. So to speak, Henrik Lundqvist is on pace for a MVP worthy year, which brings us to his team: The New York Rangers.

D'Oh

The Rangers currently sit in the 7th spot in the east with 87 points, sitting snug between the Habs and the Sabres. 9th place Carolina is 7 points behind the Rags, so a few win’s here and there and they’ve all but locked up a spot no worse than 7th. The difference between 7th and 6th right now means a difference between facing the 2nd seeded Capitals or 3rd seeded Bruins. While the Capitals are a high scoring, finesse team; the Bruins are a more physical, work the puck and hope for a great bounce kind of team. Any goaltender would much rather face the Bruins. That’s a no brainer, and naturally, if Henrik Lundqvist wants to face the Bruins, it’s pretty much going to be up to him to make that happen.

Henrik gets what Henrik wants

Over the past three games, in which the Rags have earned 5 out of a possible 6 points, the Blueshirts have scored 3 goals. That equates to two 1-0 shutouts, and one 2-1 shootout loss. To those keeping score at home, that means that Henrik has let in 1 regulation/overtime goal in the past 3 games. That’s a goalie with brass in his balls. But we already knew that didn’t we. After all, this is the same goalie who in 2006 backstopped a stocked with talent Swedish roster to the Gold Medal. The difference between what’s happening here on Broadway and what happened in Torino is that that Sweden team scored goals. With guys like the Sedin twins, Daniel Alfredson, and Mats Sundin scoring goals at will, Henrik didn’t have to stand on his head, he just had to be “Henrik-good.” (I’ve also got my own personal opinion on European players and their lack of desire to win the Stanley Cup, but that’s for a different post) It’s a different case here in the Big Apple.

Stanley what?

A team stacked with offensive players like Marian Gaborik, Vaclav Prospal, Alexander Frolov and Wojtek Wolski; this years team is lead offensively by future All-Star Brandon Dubinsky with 51 points. That’s pretty pathetic when the league leaders sit somewhere between 96 and 85 points. But this isn’t an offensive team right (somebody should tell Sather who keeps signing finesse players than.) No this is a team that is built from goalie out, with coach John Torterella stressing a physical, defense first mentality. That’s easy for guys like Mr. Clutch Chris Drury, Sean Avery and a hard nosed defense lead by Marc Staal. But when your GM signs or trades for the flashy guys, and you play in a city that loves nothing more than high octane fueled sports teams, it get’s hard to adhere to that plan. So what you end up getting is a mix-mashed team. You’ve got 6 players who can score, and 6 who can defend. That’s good and all, but the great teams, they have 3 who can score, 3 who can defend, and 6 who can do whatever the fuck is asked of them at any given moment. It’s those teams that win cups. That’s hard when your public wants players who score 30 goals a year (team leader: Ryan Callahan, 23 goals) and your coach wants players with a +/- somewhere around +30 a year (team leader: Micheal Sauer, +18.) What you end up getting is a team that makes the playoffs, but is too bipolar to stick with one theme required for a grueling 2 month Cup run. This didn’t mean to turn into a playoff preview, but I guess it sort of had too.

That brings us back to Henrik, and the red blanket. If you haven’t figured it out by now, The New York Rangers are the red blanket. You see, Henrik doesn’t have to be the best goalie in the world, because frankly, it isn’t demanded of him. Not by management, not by the coaching staff, and not by the fans. After 3 years in the league, management handed him a 6 year contract, worth $41.25 million dollars. His regular season numbers earned him that contract. His 11-12 record in the playoffs those three years didn’t. The year after he signed that contract he won 38 games in the regular season, and only 3 in the playoffs. And for Henrik, that’s OK because the coaching staff isn’t going to do anything about it. Since his rookie year Henrik has started at least 70 games a year. That’s above average for a goaltender, except of course when that goalie earns a little over 6 million a year. Only this year will he be starting less than the 70, but you can credit that to having his first competitive back up in a long time, Marty Biron. The fan’s won’t be complaining he’s hitting the ice so much cause frankly, he puts up the numbers. Ask any Rags fan who their MVP is and without a doubt you’ll get King Henrik. And when the team falters in the playoffs, well, that’s cause the defense was too soft. That will be hard to say this year, with the 5th best goal’s against and 11th best penalty kill. Of maybe it’s cause they lacked any goal scorers. Be hard to argue with the 13 ranked offense in both goals for per game and power play effectiveness. No this year the difference between a first round exit or a trip back to the second round for the first time in 3 years is whether or not King Henrik comes to play. But with that red blanket wrapped so tight around him these past 5 years, it’s going to be fun to see whether he can get out of bed.

Survey says...!

All photos via http://www.acephotos.org/t610285/henrik-lundqvist-photos.html

3 responses to “The Thing About Henrik

  1. Laughlin March 28, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    I am a huge NHL and Flyers fan, above all other teams and sports. I can say this about the Rangers and who they might face in the first round.

    You’re right about Boston – they are a grind it out, physical team without the offensive punch that you get with a team like the Caps. However, they also have an absolute STUD in net in Tim Thomas. Washington is a high-power offense that can score a ton of goals but let me tell you, they play bad team defense. They pride themselves on having offensive defensement in Mike Green and Jon Carlson, but both are mediocre at best in their own end. Without a good defensive system in place, they must rely on their above average goalies to sometimes bail them out.

    So for the blueshirts’ aforementioned matchups, it’s
    vs. Washington: A) NYR so-so offense against Washington’s poor defensive team and mediocre goalies and B) King Henrik and NYR tough defense against Washington’s high-powered offense.

    vs. Boston: A) NYR so-so offense against a solid defensive Boston team and a show-stopper in Tim Thomas and B) King Henrik and NYR tough defense against a tough, grind-it-out Boston offense.

    If I’m a Rangers fan, I’d rather play to my strengths and ride the King against the Caps than rely on my weakness against Tim Thomas. Then again, if the Flyers keep it up, you may just be playing them first round…but that’s a whole different article in itself.

    I will write an extensive NHL Playoff Preview.

  2. Papa Bear March 28, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    We will crush whatever team we play.

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