Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 11/20/14
New_york_islanders_5eba

There’s no denying the importance of primary and secondary scoring, shutdown defense, and great special teams play. But more than anything, hockey games are won and lost based on the ability to stop the puck. Every coach and player will tell you that a team goes only as far as its goalie takes them, and if you’re not convinced, how about this quick statistic for you: five of the last 11 Stanley Cup Final MVP’s have been netminders. A list of these names features some of the sport’s all time greats, including Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. And if the New York Rangers want to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in the near future, Henrik Lundqvist will need to lead the charge and join that sacred list.

“King” Henrik was nothing short of spectacular this past season, posting a 1.97 GAA and a .930 save percentage. These numbers landed him a Vezina Trophy, but more importantly a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. New York has come to expect brilliance from Lundqvist over the years due to his consistent play, and the organization was frankly lost until the emergence of this Swedish superstar. He stepped between the pipes in 2005-2006, and has only missed the playoffs once.  

The numbers speak for themselves, really:

But the team around him in his short career has never been as poised to win a Cup as they are now, heading into the 2012-2013 season, and if the Rangers are to be successful yet again, the X, Y, and Z factors will all be Henrik Lundqvist. They say that John Tortorella is the brains behind the Blueshirts, so if that is true, then Lundqvist is undoubtedly the heart.

Though during the season the Rangers had strong and timely scoring, one cannot say the same of their playoff run. Henrik Lundqvist was the reason the Rangers made it as far as they did, stealing games in both the Ottawa and Washington series. Likewise, it came as no surprise that when Hank let his guard down every so slightly in games four through six against the Devils, the magical season came to an abrupt end. But hopefully the addition of Rick Nash and the continued emergence of the youth in the franchise will fix that by filling in the rare gaps in Hank’s game, and finally put a championship banner next to that of 1994 in the process.

While Henrik Lundqvist has the potential to lead Gotham City to victory, this window of opportunity is shrinking. At 30 years of age, there may be a three to four-year horizon if the team is to take full advantage of Henrik in his prime. YES, I know, Brodeur has played into his 40’s, but Henrik’s harsh butterfly style will shorten his career because of the pressure he constantly exerts on his knees. Plain and simple, the New York Rangers must win now while Hank is in his prime. 

The Blueshirts could loose any player on their roster and quite honestly remain Stanley Cup “contenders”; that is, any player except Henrik Lundqvist. He has been and will continue be the backbone of the franchise, and he will prove that once again in 2012-2013. Although his career has been relatively brief, his regular season numbers compare favorably to those of Martin Broduer. Broduer over his long career has posted a 2.23 GAA with a .913 SV%, while Henrik has compiled similar stats with a 2.27 GAA with a .912 SV%. But real comparisons will be held in abeyance until he brings home the hardware.

His numbers have led two or three different Ranger lineups to the playoffs where the post-season was probably not merited from  a “team” effort standpoint. Rick Nash, Brad Richards, or even Ryan McDonagh may be the next Conn Smythe Trophy winner, but they will not be playing for a Stanley Cup next year if Henrik Lundqvist does not have another brilliant season.   

** Follow Alex Klein on Twitter: @kleinale1992 **

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Panthers coach replaces break-in victims’ Christmas presents

Bruce Arians benches Logan Thomas on Christmas Day

Richard Sherman: Marshawn Lynch having MVP season

Curt Schilling tweeted advice to Johnny Manziel

Aaron Rodgers buys TVs for Packers teammates

Harbaugh smiled when asked about Michigan's bday tweet

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jackie Robinson West Little League accused of cheating

Police: Fire that burned down McClain's home 'suspicious'

Furniture store will refund purchases if OSU wins title

What each NFC team in the hunt should ask for from Santa

Is SI ashamed to mention Jameis Winston on its cover?

Kobe Bryant disappointed Lakers didn't get Rajon Rondo

WATCH: Kenny Smith pushes Shaq into a Christmas tree

Q&A with Rich Eisen; TNF, DirecTV and living in LA

Is the NFL playoff system heading south?

WATCH: Quincy Acy ejected for throwing punch at John Wall

Billy Beane did not want to trade Josh Donaldson

Peyton Manning plans to be back with Broncos next year

WATCH: Blazers announcer botches Damian Lillard call

WATCH: P.K. Subban disguises himself, surprises kids for Xmas

Baseball cards: a fan's love for the ultimate stocking stuffer

Packers game is a career defining moment for Stafford

A look inside Jason Grilli's contract with the Braves

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Q&A with Rich Eisen; TNF, DirecTV and living in LA

Dan Le Batard sums up Miami's relationship with LeBron

Is the NFL playoff system heading south?

WATCH: Announcer botches call

Police: McClain fire 'suspicious'

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

Bahamas Bowl ends on crazy Hail Mary

49ers OT Davis takes shot at coordinator

Will FIFA ever care to change?

Top storyline for each Week 17 game

40 great Christmas-related sports names

Nick Mangold and dealing with feelings as a sports fan

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.