Evolving Lundqvist Moves On With Second Shutout
As if digging his New York Rangers out of a 2-0 and 3-2 first-round holes wasn’t enough, Lundqvist did it with consecutive shutouts against the Washington Capitals, following up Sunday’s tense 27-save, 1-0 shutout with a 35-stop, 5-0 blanking in Game 7 on the road on Monday. Lundqvist stopped 13 shots in the first period, setting the tone to end a three-game skid at the Verizon Center.
Not that fans should expect anything less from Lundqvist, who finished the first round with a .947 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average behind an offensively challenged Rangers team that has leaned heavily on him all season.
There’s a reason he is a five time finalist and the reigning winner of the Vezina Trophy. And while Sergei Bobrovsky may deservedly supplant him for the NHL’s Top Goaltender award for this season, is there any arguing Lundqvist is the best in the game right now?
Former playing partner Alex Auld indicated on Twitter that Lundqvist was the most focussed – and Auld has played with Tim Thomas, Carey Price and Ed Belfour:
That focus includes a constant attention to detail with his own game, and while it’s strength is rooted in an unwavering belief in the goal line-out principles taught to him by Rangers goaltending guru Benoit Allaire, there is also a willingness to tinker around the edges. Just as InGoal recently praised Washington’s Braden Holtby for calming his game this season – and it stands for the young goalie, despite a second straight Game 7 loss to Lundqvist and the Rangers – it’s important to recognize Lundqvist’s evolution to the top.
InGoal Magazine documented it in a cover story on Lundqvist two springs ago. It started with Allaire and the inside-out philosophy when he first came over from Sweden, a radical departure for a goaltender that had played aggressively in his home country, but one he mastered is remarkably short order, which the long-time coach recognized immediately as a sign of future greatness.
“What I see with guys that can be top goalies in the League, they can make adjustments so fast,” Allaire told InGoal. “With Henrik I saw in the first year – the first month – that he can do it right away. It’s like Tiger Woods changing his swing. Henrik did the same thing, just made the adjustment. You can see the skill like a Tiger. He’s got it. If I will ask him to do something else, he will do it too. And you know those guys are so good to translate that information, to do it right away, that they can have success right away. Only the top guys have got that.”
Lundqvist’s belief in the value of that first big change remains the pillar of his game, and on the rare occasions it has let him down, he goes right back to it rather than looking to make changes, providing an incredible level of consistency. But that’s not to say Lundqvist isn’t willing to make other smaller adjustments with Allaire. Those have continued over the years.
They include everything from stance (Lundqvist has narrowed his feet, thus making himself taller); to raising his glove position in order to compensate for the amount of net shooters see while playing so deep; to taking more depth like he used to in Sweden against breakaways and certain odd-man rush situations, matching the speed and adding some of the backwards flow he otherwise removed.
“When you look at the great goalies they kind of changed their game when the game changed. To stay the best they adjusted,” Lundqvist told InGoal, singling out boyhood idols Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, and Belfour.
Lundqvist has also tinkered with his gear, including adopting a stiff practice glove because he liked it’s wide open presentation to the shooter so much, and being the first to run the boot strap of his pad through the back of his skate rather than under it. It’s an innovation that allows the pad to shift up and close the 5-hole better when he drops. It’s one other goalies like Calgary’s Danny Taylor, Anaheim’s Viktor Fasth, and Winnipeg’s Mark Dekanich have adopted, prompting the NHL to look at closing that loophole.
InGoal covered them all in the cover story, so be sure to check it out for more details and insights from Lundqvist himself, including sharing the drill he prefers to stay sharp before a game: