Henrik Lundqvist Retires from Hockey at Age 39

The day has come, at the age of 39, legendary New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has announced his retirement from professional hockey due to a heart problem that was revealed in late December of 2020. “Hank” sparked a new generation of Ranger fans immediately when stepping onto the ice and earning his first NHL win against the Devils on October 13th, 2005. Immediately when presenting himself as one of the stars of the game fans at MSG quickly chanted his soon-to-be iconic chant “Henrik! Henrik! Henrik!” From that moment onwards Lundqvist would only continue to solidify himself as the best Rangers goalie of all time and one of the best goalies ever to play the game. As a way to remember Hank let’s briefly go through his legendary NHL career with the Rangers.

Lundqvist’s Playing Career

After Lundqvist’s first win in the NHL, he’d only continue to dominate in his rookie season as he’d post up fantastic numbers. In 56 games played he had 30 wins, a 2.24 GAA, and a .922 sv%, which helped him become a Vezina finalist. That year however he’d come in 3rd place behind Martin Brodeur and Vezina winner Miikka Kiprusoff. Despite this, Lundqvist would continuously dominate the league where he’d be finally awarded it as he wins the Vezina trophy in 2012, where through 62 games he had 39 wins, a 1.97 GAA, .930 SV%, and a 43.55 GSAx via Evolving-Hockey

After the 2012 season where he won the Vezina trophy, Lundqvist further and further elevated his game to a level that was never seen by any goalie in Rangers history as he’d carry them to a 2014 cup final and 2015 eastern conference final, where sadly both ended in painful moments, but it should not take away how brilliant he was during both runs. In the playoffs in general, he was the sole reason the Rangers were as good as they were during the 2010s. He was also Mr. Clutch in Game 7s as he’d put up a 1.11 GAA, .961 sv%, and a remarkable 6-2 record, and in elimination games, he was 15-4 from 2012-2015, Hank was simply sensational. 

Despite all this, the Rangers could not be cup contenders forever as in the 2018 trade deadline Jeff Gorton and co. announced the Rangers will enter a rebuild where they quickly sent off pieces such as captain Ryan McDonagh, long time Ranger Rick Nash, and young blossoming star J.T Miller for futures that would help them become a championship-caliber team later down the road. Though the Rangers made it clear they were heading into a rebuild, Hank made it clear he wanted to stay in New York and help the team, he put loyalty to the organization over chasing a championship which showed how great of a person the King was. 

“Loyalty was so important to me throughout my career, I feel like I left everything I had on the ice in New York. That feels good. When I made the decision to stay for the rebuild, loyalty was the most important thing to me. We didn’t win, but I did right by me. Staying meant so much to me.”

via Larry Brooks of the NYPost 

The Beginning of the End

When Igor Shesterkin came to the Rangers it already spelled the beginning of the end for King Henrik as the heir to his throne arrived, and when he got his call up to play for the Rangers he took the opportunity and ran with it, and since that moment Lundqvist was seen as the third goaltender in the Rangers organization behind Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, and that was made evident when Hank only started in three regular-season games after. Then came COVID-19, ending the regular season and soon started the play in series where the Rangers played the Hurricanes. This was seen as Lundqvist’s opportunity to come back and have one more run under his belt. Sadly, hopes of a Cinderella run were stopped as the Rangers got dominated to the point for the first time in Henrik Lundqvist’s career, he would not start another playoff game for the Rangers as in game three, Shesterkin took over. Nonetheless, the Rangers got swept and that was the last we’d see of Hank’s career as on September 30th, 2020 he was bought out by New York, where a few months after he’d have a heart condition that inevitably ended his playing career.

Concluding Thoughts

Henrik Lundqvist saved the Rangers from struggling, as, before his arrival they were trying to find the guy in net after Mike Richter retired, they went from goaltenders such as Mike Dunham, Dan Blackburn (whose career got cut short due to injury), Kevin Weekes, Jamie McLennan, and many more. But when Lundqvist arrived no one expected him to lift the franchise on his back and carry them throughout the years which would go onto solidify the King as undoubtedly the best goalie in Rangers history, and painfully enough probably the best goalie in NHL history to never win a cup. Regardless it shouldn’t take away from the illustrious career of King Henrik as he ranks 6th all-time in wins with 459 wins, a 2.43 GAA, .918 SV%, and a 277.94 GSAx, he also won the Vezina in 2012 as long as being a finalist for the trophy in 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2013. In the playoffs, Hank amassed 61 wins, a 2.30 GAA, a 921 sv%, and a 54.44 GSAx. Lundqvist was also a great guy off the ice as he made the Henrik Lundqvist foundation where through fundraising and community efforts he’d help make a positive change for the lives of children and adults with education and health services. Hank was a great leader, legendary goaltender, but an even better person off the ice, so understandably it pains all Ranger fans to see him retire, but nevertheless, we all wish him the best in life after hockey.

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