Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular in shutting out the Washington Capitals in Games 6 and 7. He was nothing if not candid after the New York Rangers’ 5-0 victory Monday.
“The great thing here, we managed to win the series without playing our absolute best,” the Vezina Trophy finalist said.
The Rangers were able to beat the Caps in seven perhaps without their best hockey because their goaltender was unquestionably the best player on the ice. Lundqvist stopped 62 shots in back-to-back elimination-game shutouts.
“Henrik Lundqvist. Plain and simple,” right wing Troy Brouwer said of why the Caps couldn’t score for the final 120 minutes of their season. “They block shots and when they didn’t block shots, he was there to make saves. He won that series for them, in my eyes.”
Not just in his eyes but in the eyes of just about everyone watching the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
“I think it was just one guy out there,” Washington captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Of course they played really well against my line, but Lundqvist did an unbelievable job. He makes incredible saves to keep them in the game, especially Game 6, the saves that he makes was very huge for them. Maybe we tried too hard to put the puck in the net. Maybe we weren’t too loose to figure out how to do it.”
Lundqvist frustrated the Caps for much of the series. He allowed perhaps one soft goal in seven games and, in the end, was much better than Braden Holtby in the clincher.
“That’s typical Hank,” Rangers forward Arron Asham said. “He’s the best in the league, and we’re lucky to have him.”
The Caps were unlucky to have to face Lundqvist in the playoffs two years in a row. Almost a year to the day of last season’s Game 7 loss, players lamented the opposing goaltender’s control of a series.
“I thought last game we definitely had some grade As and we didn’t bury, but he was a big factor, and that’s for sure,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Nearly every team that wins, their goalie is the main reason – if not the main reason – why they win. He was great.”
Henrik’s final line on the series was 4-3 with a 1.65 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. After one of his finest stretches of goaltending since the 2006 Olympics, the 31-year-old acknowledged he wasn’t care-free against the Caps, who got 226 shots on him.
“There’s moments where you enjoy it and you think ‘Wow, this is great,’ and you have fun,” Lundqvist said. “But there’s also moments where you don’t feel great. You feel the pressure and you just want to get it done, so badly. You try to control your emotions. That’s the key for me. I’m an emotional guy when I play. I try to just stay calm. Good or bad. I just try to stay calm and focus on my thing. But it’s hard when you want to win so badly.”
Lundqvist managed to get that job done, and the Rangers hope his strong play continues against the Boston Bruins.
“Henrik is our backbone and for us to continue to play, we need to get through a series and your goaltender has to [play well],” coach John Tortorella said. “We certainly know we’re going to get that from Henrik.”