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Cup hopes for Henrik Lundqvist fading as Rangers struggle

Henrik Lundqvist

What do you get when you add 405 wins, a Vezina Trophy and 11 playoff appearances altogether? For Henrik Lundqvist, it equals zero Stanley Cup titles.

The numbers make the math seem nonsensical, but that’s the irrationality of the New York Rangers’ inability to win a title with Lundqvist in net. With time fading away, his window to claim one is closing.

Since his arrival to the NHL in 2005, Lundqvist has shocked the hockey world with his play. The 405 wins are the most of any European-born goaltender in history. His 2011-12 Vezina victory came the same year he finished third for the Hart Trophy, which is remarkable for a goalie. In those 11 postseason appearances, Lundqvist has 61 wins, most in the Blueshirts record book.

Henrik Lundqvist after the Rangers selected him in the 2000 NHL Draft. Photo courtesy of MSG Networks/Photo by Getty Images

As a seventh-round pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, during which Rangers legend Mike Richter stood between the pipes, Lundqvist was never supposed to be this good. Now that he is, he needs hockey’s ultimate prize to entrench himself in history.

Unfairly or not, fans view great players who haven’t won a Stanley Cup in their careers differently. There are some talented alumni who come to mind. The Russian Rocket himself, Pavel Bure, never drank from Lord Stanley’s Cup. Adam Oates went to the playoffs 15 times in his 22-year career, only to fall short each time.

In the present day, Lundqvist’s division rival Alex Ovechkin continues to face criticism for failing to take the Washington Capitals to the top. Lundqvist, despite shattering hockey records, receives similar shame.

There’s one issue, however: the five players on the ice in front of him haven’t helped.

While Lundqvist’s record in the playoffs is a mediocre 61-65 record, he’s done his part in the postseason. His save percentage stands at .922 and he’s made over 3,500 saves. His greatest moments came in his Vezina season and the year he brought the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final. On May 12, 2012, five years ago yesterday, Lundqvist was incredible against Ovechkin and the Capitals, making 22 crucial saves as the Rangers won in seven games. In 2014, his performance against the Montreal Canadiens in the Conference Finals, and most of that postseason too, was tremendous.

The problem for “The King” and the Rangers is getting over the mountain. In 2012, it was an upstart Devils team that found a heartbreaking overtime goal from Adam Henrique. Then in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the Los Angeles Kings constructed as impressive a brick wall as Lundqvist with Jonathan Quick. On top of that, their offensive pace and pressure were too much for an inconsistent Rangers defense.

Henrik Lundqvist (center) in 2014 after Alec Martinez (left) scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal. Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News/photo by Mark J Terrill, AP

Other years, it was a sluggish offense. Ask any Rangers fan about how Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash fared in the playoffs in recent years. All three have hefty contracts and are expected to be the top goal scorer each year. All three combined for 32 goals in 153 postseason games for the Rangers.

This postseason, the Rangers fell to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Lundqvist was incredible in the previous series against Montreal. His .9466 save percentage was the second-highest of his career in a playoff series. However, his defense left him out to dry against the Senators.

New York had issues clearing the puck and turnovers in their own zone. As a result, Lundqvist had to make countless sprawling saves. Even when he did, one more shot zipped past him. For a team with over 100 points this season, a second-round exit was disappointing. It was even more so for Henrik.

In a race to hold the Stanley Cup, Lundqvist is losing to Father Time. He’s 35 years old, and his GAA has increased over the past three seasons. The Rangers have to examine multiple contracts on the blue line. They may also lose a forward to the expansion draft this summer.

Lundqvist has a hold on to his starting job. That’s clear as crystal. Will he get the opportunity to show off the Stanley Cup to the fans at Madison Square Garden? It’s getting harder to predict.

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