As the 2016-17 NHL season progressed, questions of Henrik Lundqvist’s hockey mortality began to arise.
Compared to other goalies, his numbers weren’t necessarily bad, but they weren’t up to “King” like standards. One particular rough stretch in December even forced head coach Alain Vigneault to bench Lundqvist for Antti Raanta.
But when the lights of the postseason came on in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night at Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens, much like he has throughout his storied career, Lundqvist took his game to a new level as he turned away all 31 shots to backstop a Rangers 2-0 victory.
Tanner Glass provided what turned out to be the game-winning goal at the 9:50 mark of the first period.
After Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec initially won a faceoff in his own zone, the puck squirted out toward an onrushing Glass, who sniped a backhanded effort past Canadiens goalie Carey Price:
It was the Rangers’ third shot of the game as they had been thoroughly dominated by Montreal, who fed off a ravenous home crowd.
Regardless of their early momentum, Lundqvist shut them down, most notably during that first period in which the Canadiens outshot New York 16-5.
The Canadiens kept coming, but Lundqvist continued to keep them at bay. One of his finest saves of the night came in the second period when he stopped a Shea Weber one-timer wth a shoulder save while sliding from post-to-post:
Michael Grabner, who scored just once in his final 23 games, was able to ice the game in the final moments with an empty-net tally.
A common recipe for winning a playoff series as an underdog is by splitting the first two games while on the road.
The Rangers already got that one road win and have a fantastic opportunity to put an abundance of pressure on the Canadiens with a strong showing in Game 2 on Saturday.
As long as Lundqvist plays like he did in Game 1, the Rangers will like their chances moving forward.