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It’s time to stop making excuses for Henrik Lundqvist

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Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s (30) dream to play for the Stanley Cup has become a nightmare. (Robert Beck/SI)

By Allan Muir

You almost have to feel bad for Henrik Lundqvist, don’t you? The Man Who Has Everything has nothing to show for his efforts through the first three games of the Stanley Cup finals.

No luck. No help. No wins.

Well, nothing is not entirely accurate, of course. The embattled Rangers ‘keeper does have one thing:

Excuses.

Lundqvist was on the hook for three goals on just 15 shots in New York’s 3-0 loss to the Kings on Monday night. But who could blame him, right? The first might have changed direction slightly after deflecting off the skate of defenseman Dan Girardi from about 20 feet out. The second was redirected by the well-meaning block attempt of Martin St. Louis. The third came when the puck bounced off the skate of Rangers blueliner Ryan McDonagh and directly onto the tape of L.A.’s Mike Richards.

MUIR: Did Jeff Carter’s buzzer-beater really beat the buzzer?

In fact, that’s pretty much been the story of the series for Lundqvist. Of the five goals he allowed in Game 2, two were deflections, two were rebounds and one was heavily screened. In Game 1, the Kings’ comeback was fueled by a jam play at the side of the crease and a costly giveaway in OT that led to a money chance in the low slot.

Stanley Cup Final recaps with highlights: Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3

Tough, tough chances, no doubt. But since when did that let a goalie off the hook? Especially a goalie who was his team’s leading Conn Smythe Trophy contender coming into the final?

Lundqvist tried to explain it all away on Monday night.

“Obviously it’s mentally challenging to try to overcome that first goal,” he said of Jeff Carter’s game-winner, which snuck in with less than a second remaining in the first period. “And they get that fluky bounce again on the second … We are doing a lot good things, but you look at the goals and we put two in our own net and then just a tough play on the third one.

“At some point, you are going to need some puck luck and we don’t have any right now.”

KWAK: Rangers in danger of losing hope

Maybe so, but what New York really hasn’t had are stops. Big stops. Game-changing stops.

You know, the kind that Jonathan Quick has been making for L.A.

We’re not singing Quick’s praises because he has made the saves he was supposed to make. We’re tipping our cap to him because he has stopped so many shots that he flat-out shouldn’t have.

Just think back to Game 3. With the game still scoreless in the 14th minute of the first period, Mats Zuccarello swatted at the puck while it lay in the crease. Quick appeared to be caught out of position, but when the shot trickled off the inside of the left post, he was there with the paddle of his goal stick to prevent it from crossing the line.

Then in the second, with the Kings holding on to a 2-0 lead, Derick Brassard pounced on a rebound to the goalie’s right and fired it toward the gaping cage. Again, Quick exploded across the crease and made a dazzling stick save that left Brassard smashing the boards in frustration.

Both were Grade-A chances, in-tight and off the sticks of proven goal scorers. If those shots go in, they change the course of the game.

But they didn’t. Against all odds, Quick came up with both saves.

No excuses needed.

“[Quick] was obviously the best player on the ice tonight,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said somberly in the aftermath of defeat. “You’ve got to finish in this game. It’s a performance-oriented business.”

Quick has proven that he can finish. The ‘keeper who started the playoffs allowing 12 goals in his first five periods of action now has a shutout streak of 116:16 in the finals. No one said it was easy. He’s just made it look that way while leading the Kings to within one win of their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.

As for New York, it’s probably too late for the Rangers to work their way back into this series … but it’s not too late to stop making excuses for Lundqvist. In the biggest series of his career, he’s come up short when his team has needed him most.

L.A. and New York will meet in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC, RDS)

  • Published On Jun 10, 2014
  • 32 comments
    Mike M4
    Mike M4

    I'm a Penguin fan who lives in NY and loves to rip on the Rangers any time I can.  But this article is just ridiculous.  Clearly, you haven't watched any more than a few periods of hockey this year. 

    VtPuckHead
    VtPuckHead

    Coming into the series, there was a fair bit of chatter about how NYR might capitalize on Quick's gambling style by moving the puck side to side when he was out to challenge. But I haven't seen much on how LA's net-front presence works against a goalie like Prince Henrik, who plays deep in his crease. The best way to beat that kind of goalie is with tips/deflections (goalies at the top of the crease cut down the degree of deflection on shots that are tipped). I don't think LA has changed their game to take advantage, because they're a net-crashing team to start. But Henrik has been TOO deep in his crease on several goals. Haven't heard anything about this.

    Quick > Lundqvist and has been for at least a couple of years.

    Price > Lundqvist at the Olympics and in the playoffs this year until his injury (ask Boston).

    Rask > Lundqvist the past couple of seasons.

    Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the league over the past several seasons ... but he's not an all-time great goalie.

    He reminds me of Tony Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Grant Fuhr ... amazing reflexes, competitive, quick, athletic ... fun to watch. But a tier below the Brodeur/Roy/Hasek/Plante/Hall level.

    LAfrevr
    LAfrevr

    So tired of hearing this pathetic crap about how "lucky" the Kings are. They won three straight series against very tough teams (any one of which would have beaten the rangerettes), only to catch this team of hobbits in the finals. This final series is going just the way you'd expect it to go. The team with more guts, more toughness and more talent is taking the best the NY cream puffs can dish out and still winning every game. As for the NY goalie, I think this article is unfair to him. He's the only reason the Kings haven't been scoring 7 goals a game against his team.

    DannyMac
    DannyMac

    lol and the Rangers fans come out in packs to make excuses for why the king is getting run out the series. Kings arent that great? Numbers dont lie. Lost 1 post season series in 3 years. Embarrassing fans. 

    gloconic
    gloconic

    Where did AM play hockey again?  Last I checked the score was 3-0 so tell me again who came up short?

    boggman65
    boggman65

    I am a West Coaster, and a Kings fan, but this article stinks.  Yes, Quick has been spectacular at times, and lucky as well, but Lundqvist has been snakebit.  Even if I were to agree with this article,( and I don't), please tell me how King Henrik could be responsible for the 1-for-14 Power Play performance by his team against the Kings?  Without Lundqvist, The Kings would be 3-0 up on the Canadiens or Pens, and we wouldn't be reading this SI crap.

    Ministry
    Ministry

    Wow an SI or ESPN article that doesn't involve Lebron...who woulda thought.....

    ThomO'Barsky
    ThomO'Barsky

    Ewwww, what is that smell? Oh, it's the NY Rangers "hockey" team. Carry on.

    ka
    ka

    "Of the five goals he allowed in Game 2, two were deflections, two were rebounds and one was heavily screened."

    You forgot to mention the goalie interference for the Kings 3rd goal -- the turning point of the series. Should have been called.

    bobinpowell
    bobinpowell

    Love seeing the Rangers fan on here.  Let's go Rangers!  Ha-ha-hahaha.

    Joe R2
    Joe R2

    What an awful SC finals.  The lucky Kings and the terrible Rangers...  Neither team is even that great...

    LC419
    LC419

    To say Henrik needs to bring it is asinine. The rest of the team needs to. Henrik carries the team. Without him we don't make the playoffs, don't recover from the Pitt series, and the Cup results are even worse. Outside of Mac the defense is awful, Richards is playing like a buyout player, Nash is a ghost, Steph hasn't been great but I give him credit with the jaw. Our only offensive line that looks to have any heart right now is the 4th. How many breakaways off turnovers and odd man rushes have Hank bailed us out on. If by some miracle they win four straight who do you think it will be because of? Is he suppose to pitch 3 shutouts and then score our goals for us as well. He is one of the few giving it his all and playing his heart out cause he knows whats on the line. He is also the first to admit when he makes a mistake. He is one of the few players I personally am not blaming for this awful series and would still take him over 90% of the other goalies in the league. Quick is playing lights out best in the world type hockey and I have no problem admitting that but he also has a team infront of him playing great hockey and playing it better then the Rangers. Henrik is keeping us in as best he can giving the lackluster effort infront of him.

    racerrick48
    racerrick48

    This article is WAYYYYYY off base!!! The Rangers came out last night and played like a bunch of old ladies. Lundqvist was one of very few shining stars for the team last night...They were either too tired or have already accepted defeat....They l;ost the game rather than the Kings winning it.


    Marc D.
    Marc D.

    Agree with the other comments.  He's gotten no help and been hurt by deflections.  Plus he's been making tons of great saves but you don't count them as "game changing" because the Rangers haven't gone on to win the games.

    jcuervo962002
    jcuervo962002

    Sorry, but this article is off base. The team defense in front of Lundquist has evaporated and they have had more bad giveaways in these 3 games then they did for the entire season. Partly due to the pressure from LA, but mostly due to poor decision making in their own end.  Thats their bread an butter, and it stinks right now.


    Just look at Clifford and Williams goals in game 1, Stoll and Gaboriks goals in game 2, Carters goal in game 3. Very uncharacteristic of this team, right down the line.

    Debellboy
    Debellboy

    If the Kings win the Cup, I wonder of Sports Illustrated will bury the story in the back of the magazine like in 2012, and had Lebron on the cover?  Of course when the Blackhawks won last year, they got the cover.  Please don't put another picture of Lebron on the cover and give the KINGS their due!!!!!

    wn23
    wn23

    Lundqvist has been a disappointment, and I'm not trying to say that Quick hasn't been outstanding, but that stick save against Brassard was pure luck.

    NYRangers618
    NYRangers618

    This is one of the worst articles I have ever read on ESPN.  Yes, I am a Ranger fan...but you've got to be kidding me.  Henrik has been the Rangers rock.  The Rangers would never have been in Games 1 or 2 if not for Henrik standing on his head, making outstanding save after outstanding save.  In Game 3's 3-0 loss....two goals were deflected off of Rangers.  Why not spend your time writing about Rick Nash doing absolutely nothing, or Brad Richards having a HORRIBLE series, or Derek Stephan playing terribly.  I have never wrote a comment on an ESPN article before....but had to for this.  Terrible writing.

    nyrfan78
    nyrfan78

    Are you kidding me right now. Henrik can't make goals go in the other end. Hank has been very good for the rangers. They have came a long ways from pre season. If you were to pick any team predictions for the cup in January. The Rangers wouldn't have even been in the top 15. They have came a long ways. Yes the Kings are good. They also have 17 players from the cup a few years ago. Rangers have 2 from 10 years ago. Give them a little credit. Regardless if we lose I'm proud to bee a ranger fan. Av has done wonders with this team and as far as Hank goes he's been a rock.

    NedNedNed
    NedNedNed

    @ka If the Rangers let that be the turning point, isn't that completely on THEM?

    spencer1799
    spencer1799

    @Joe R2 You're an idiot….Kings are the highest scoring team in the playoffs. All Luck, moron?

    Ministry
    Ministry

    @Joe R2 Kings aren't great? Then who is? I recall them beating out several quality teams...Sharks...Ducks... and Blackhawks. And 2 cups in 3 years? Gimme a break. 

    Charliegone
    Charliegone

    @LC419 IT was said before the series that Lundquist would have to be at his best for the Rangers to win this series. SO far he has not been his best.

    Charliegone
    Charliegone

    @racerrick48 Yeah you keep telling yourself that buddy. I mean it's not like the Kings are up 3-0 or anything...

    Joe R2
    Joe R2

    @Debellboy


    Kings aren't even that great.  They're just hot and lucky

    BrownsfanLA
    BrownsfanLA

    @wn23 Goaltending is part luck and part positioning. If you  know where you are at all times, you can be in position to make the save. Just keep moving your body with the puck and focus on nothing but the puck, and you will be suprised what you can do!

    racerrick48
    racerrick48

    @nyrfan78 Well said...The Rangers were never even picked to come anywhere near as far as they have this year...Kundqvist was his usual self last night, but the reat of the team played like a bunch of old ladies. Two of the three Kings goals went in on deflections off a Rangers player, too!!! Maybe, just maybe the coach can inspire them enough to pull off a win tomorrow night...But, even if they lose, they have nothing to be ashamed about...They beat Philly, Pittsburgh and Montreal...All formidable teams to get to the final...


    NedNedNed
    NedNedNed

    @ka "Oh no, now we're only leading by one goal!  Let's give up 5 straight goals and never score again."

    ka
    ka

    @NedNedNed @ka It's all about momentum and how a goal can psychologically affect both teams.  If that goal is disallowed, as it should have been, the rangers probably would have won that game.  Turning points in any sport shouldn't be based on blown calls -- that's the point I'm trying to make.