Why Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist is a lock for Hall of Fame

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. (Ben Margot/AP)

King Henrik’s reign over creases in NHL arenas has come to an end.

Longtime New York Rangers star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist officially announced his retirement from professional hockey Friday after more than 15 years in the NHL.

Lundqvist hadn’t played since the 2019-20 campaign. Ultimately, it was a heart condition that spelled the end of a career worthy of praise.

"For the last 30 years, I have devoted my life to the game of hockey and now it's time to walk away from the game I love and begin a new chapter,” the 39-year-old wrote on social media.

The outpouring of support from the hockey world is an indication of just how highly respected the Are, Sweden native has become since debuting in North America during the 2005-06 season.

There have only been six goaltenders inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame so far in the 21st century but it would appear Lundqvist is a shoo-in for enshrinement – perhaps even on the first ballot.

Even though he lacks that coveted Stanley Cup ring, here’s a quick look at why Lundqvist shouldn’t have to wait very long before he gets the Hall of Fame call once he’s eligible to receive it.

NUMBERS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Lundqvist saw action in 887 NHL regular-season games, going 459-310-96 with a .918 save percentage, 2.43 goals-against average and 64 shutouts. He currently ranks sixth all-time in regular-season wins, seventh in total saves, eighth in games played, ninth in starts and 17th in shutouts.

A model of consistency, Lunqvist is the only goalie in NHL history to win at least 30 games in each of his first seven seasons. He finished top-six in Vezina Trophy voting as the league’s top goalie on 10 separate occasions and won the award in 2011-12.

No goalie in the cap era has spent more time between the pipes than the 51,816 minutes and 51 seconds Lundqvist did during the regular season. Marc-Andre Fleury is the only goalie with more cap-era wins and shutouts than Lundqvist, while Kari Lehtonen is the only goalie with more assists than Lundqvist since 2005-06. Lundqvist’s cap-era save percentage ranks third and cap-era GAA ranks fourth among netminders with at least 500 appearances.

Lundqvist shone in the post-season as well. He saw action 130 times during the Stanley Cup Playoffs where he had a 61-67 record with a .921 save percentage, 2.30 GAA and 10 shutouts.

Despite never hoisting the Cup, Lundqvist often elevated his performance to the highest level when it meant the most.

His overall playoff record was sub-.500, however he was particularly special in Game 7s where he boasted a 6-2 record, .961 save percentage and 1.11 GAA. In fact, his team went 15-4 in elimination games between 2012 and 2015 when Lundqvist was at his peak and the Rangers were viable Cup contenders in the East, yet they fell short of a championship. The Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 but lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings and haven’t made it back since.

INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS

Although his NHL resume speaks for itself and is Hall of Fame worthy all on its own, Lundqvist’s international accomplishments are the cherry on top.

Lundqvist had a successful tenure with the Frolunda program in Sweden prior to debuting in the NHL. He was named Sweden’s junior player of the year in 2002, won the Honken Trophy as Sweden’s top goalie three years in a row from 2003-2005 then capped off his time in the Swedish Hockey League by winning the coveted Guldpucken and Guldhjälmen – the Swedish equivalent to winning both the Hart and Ted Lindsay in the NHL.

In the midst of his NHL rookie campaign, Lundqvist backstopped his country to Olympic gold in 2006. That loaded Swedish roster also featured Hall of Famers Nicklas Lidstrom, Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, plus potential future Hall of Famers Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg.

Lundqvist won a silver medal at Sochi 2014 where he was named to the tournament All-Star team. He also has a world championship gold (2017), two world championship silvers (2003, 2004) and a World Cup of Hockey bronze (2016) in his collection.

A LIFETIME RANGER

Not only are his 459 NHL victories are the most from a netminder born outside Canada, that win total is also the most ever from a goalie that played every game in their career with the same team.

He signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals in October of 2020 after the remainder of his contract was bought out by the Rangers but his heart condition prevented him from ever suiting up with the Caps.

Lundqvist, unsurprisingly, is the Rangers franchise leader in games played, wins, shutouts and saves among other categories.

Not bad for a seventh-round selection in the 2000 NHL Draft.

No Rangers player will ever wear the No. 30 again.

“It is with mixed emotions that the New York Rangers offer our best wishes and heartfelt gratitude to Henrik Lundqvist on the announcement of his retirement,” a statement from the team read.

“Henrik’s commitment to excellence made him one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game of hockey, and we are so fortunate to have witnessed his greatness firsthand for 15 years. As we congratulate Henrik on an extraordinary career and a lasting legacy of success, charity and character, we are honoured to announce that we will retire his number and raise his jersey to the rafters at an upcoming game this season.

“Henrik is, and always will be, a Ranger.”

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