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Why Lundqvist Uses Head (Literally) To Make Saves

Why Lundqvist Uses Head (Literally) To Make Saves

New York Rangers Goalie Henrik Lundqvist

New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist isn’t afraid to use his head to make big saves, something he has been doing since he was 15 years old. (InGoal Photo by Scott Slingsby)

Watching New York Rangers superstar Henrik Lundqvist secure his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final with an 18-save, 1-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night reenforced InGoal Magazine’s theory that the stylish Swede may also be The King of reactive goalies in the NHL today.

For all the attention Lundqvist gets for playing so deep in his crease under Benoit Allaire’s goal line-out approach, it somehow seems to get lost sometimes just how remarkably reactive Lundqvist has to be to make up for the coverage he surrenders with that style.

Game 6 against the Canadiens provided two great examples, once with his hands and once with his head.

The first came against Tomas Vanek, with the game still scoreless late in the second period. While the post-game praise of the Rangers’ goalie perhaps didn’t match the workload on a night they dominated Montreal and severely limited their chances, this stick-dropping blocker stop was a game-changer:

If that wasn’t enough of a showcase of Lundvist’s incredible reactive ability, he nonchalantly used his mask to head a puck out of play soccer style in the final minute of a 1-0 game after the Canadiens pulled their goalie, Dustin Tokarski, for an extra attacker:

It’s a tactic we’ve seen Lundqvist use many times before, which of course gives him the confidence to pull it out in a crucial situation with a trip to the Cup Final on the line. InGoal asked Lundqvist about his header saves a couple of years ago, and he said it was all about maintaining visual attachment on the puck as long as possible.

“I don’t want to cover my eyes with the glove,” said Lundqvist, adding he’s been doing it since he was 15 years old. “It feels better to use the head. I probably don’t do it during practice, but during games it never hurts.”

Judging from the sequence after another head save early in the 2011-12 season, evidently not:

It’s the kind of late reaction save Lundqvist relies on to play so deep – and being so deep buys him extra time to use those reactions – and something to consider the next time he is cited as an example in discussions on the need to reduce equipment. Yes, Lundqvist has come up with gear innovations, including putting his boot strap through the heel of the skate so the pads aren’t pulled down as much, something others have copied. But he is far from a “close-the-holes” puck blocker. In fact, he may be the furthest thing from it in the NHL right now.

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.

2 Comments

  1. B

    Good article..also, Lundqvist has one of the best goalie faces in the league when in the mask.. one eye always seems to be kind of twitching and his mask always seems to be crooked, haha.

  2. Mike

    Lundqvist is my favorite goalie in the league. I like this article, but there is another side to his refusal to roll over his glove hand and catch the puck in front of his face. You will see him rise up fast and have pucks hit him in the chest, which he falls on and covers, usually, but sometimes gives up rebounds. Its a lot messier than calmly catching the puck like a first baseman does all the time, out front coming right at your face. Pekka Rinne does it the best I suppose, but so do most others.

    I also agree the blocker save was super cool and did surprise me at the athleticism and “Hasekness” of it. Not in a bad way, but I do not think of Lundqvist as having the improvised athletic saves, nor the fluidity of other guys like Fleury. But obviously he can pretty much do whatever he wants. He is like a concentrating machine that stops pucks.
    He reminds me of another Swedish legend, Bjorn Borg. Borg did all kinds of things “wrong”, he had equipment changed for his needs that seemed weird. Coaches could not and would not let youth players try to hit the ball like Borg.(Who’s going to coach headers to goalies?) But players copied him anyway, and he changed the game. He was also stylish and handsome, whether he wanted the attention or not. He was also steely and so concentrated in his mental game it was amazing. People said he could never succeed on grass with his technique, but as Wimbledon was the pinnacle event, Borg made a few adjustments and set his mind to it, and won five in a row.

    I hope Lundqvist and his team win the Cup.