Photo credit: Nick Peritz
It has taken me a few days to truly be able to find the words after the Rangers bowed out in three straight to the Carolina Hurricanes. Thinking about the season ending in just four days after we waited four months for hockey to return was a major kick in the gut.
Perhaps the biggest kick for me though was realizing that I might have seen Henrik Lundqvist play his last game as a New York Ranger.
Even as I just wrote those words it still doesn’t seem like a reality but it could possibly become one this off-season. This is a man who has been the backbone of this organization from the day that he took the crease from Kevin Weekes. We all know the Rangers three headed goalie monster has to come to an end sooner or later and we’ve seen from how the Rangers used Hank during the regular season that it is fairly clear that he will be the odd man out in any circumstance.
Had it not been for Shesterkin getting hurt during the Blueshirts exhibition game vs the Islanders we never would have seen Lundqvist in net against the Canes during the qualifier. We all would have been left with that bitter taste in our mouth that Lundqvist’s last ever start as a New York Ranger would have been that drubbing he took at the hands of the Flyers back before the pause on a Sunday afternoon at MSG. I for one know that’s not the way I want to think of his Rangers career wrapping up.
With Shesterkin starting game 3 and snapping Lundqvist’s 129 consecutive postseason game starting streak we’ve finally seen the end of what has been an incredibly dominate run for a New York Ranger goalie. Unfortunately like Eddie Giacomin long ago we’ll have seen a stellar career on Broadway likely come to an end without lifting a Cup on the corner of 33rd and 7th Avenue. It honestly feels criminal to have watched Lundqvist’s entire career as a Blueshirt end without a Cup, especially considering the level of dominance we’ve seen and some of the teams that he’s dragged kicking and screaming from the depths of mediocrity to help restore this proud Original Six franchise to a level of play that fans can be proud of.
It can’t be overstated what Lundqvist has meant to the Rangers turnaround from a perennial cellar dweller to becoming a team mentioned as having a shot at the Stanley Cup for a solid five year stretch.
No matter how this relationship comes to an end, any and all Rangers fans that have been fortunate enough to watch him don the Blueshirt should be thankful to have been able to watch such a great player in team history. My biggest hope will be that Hank will wind up retiring and returning back overseas to Sweden to play with his brother Joel to finish out his hockey days. Instead of remaining in the NHL for one or two more years and playing as a backup for another franchise. Seeing him wear the colors of another organization would just a be a sight that wouldn’t look right and I know I’m not the only fan who shares that sentiment.
If the Rangers choose to go the route of buying out the final year of Hank’s contract, that would be seriously ill-advised given the current state of the cap and how the Rangers are close to being against the cap, it would be an unceremonious ending to what was a fantastic career.
Either way if game 3 was the last time we got to see Henrik Lundqvist wear a Ranger sweater it has certainly been one hell of a ride that I am truly grateful to have been able to watch. Thanks for all the great memories, Hank!
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