After losing the Conference Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games, calling the 2014–15 New York Rangers season a disappointment felt like an understatement. Looking like the team to beat after coming up short against the Los Angeles Kings for the Stanley Cup the season prior, the team finished the year with the best record in the league and the most number of wins and points in the franchise's long history. And while it's always a team effort, watching the season end after goalie Henrik Lundqvist proved once again why he's the best goalie in hockey made it all the more difficult to watch the Blueshirts leave the ice for the final time.
Known for both his impenetrability in the net and his impeccable style off the ice, King Henrik — Hank to his less formal fans — is featured in Tag Heuer's #DontCrackUnderPressure campaign. At their 5th Avenue boutique in New York City, he reflected on a Rangers season that was both record-breaking and heartbreaking, and revealed what keeps him going, beyond the quest for the Cup.
Lundqvist not only doesn't crack under pressure; he thrives on it. His record in elimination games is one of the best in the world. "In the playoffs, the goal is just to stay in the game, whatever it takes, to make it to the next round. You do whatever you can to be able to play, to keep playing."
This spring, the Rangers won the Presidents Trophy for the best record in the regular season — a season that saw Lundqvist sidelined for a month after an injury he described as "truly bizarre." Just as the stick of his own defenseman, Captain Ryan McDonagh, accidentally lifted the part of his mask designed to protect his neck, a shot hit Lundqvist in the throat, damaging a blood vessel. For him, the hardest part was waiting for the clearance to get back on the ice: "It was tough, mentally, to wait for the doctors to tell me I could play. I felt fine, but I had to wait. It was all mental."
Ways to Win
Asked about the most memorable moments of the past season, Lundqvist responded without hesitation: "Game 7 against the Capitals, that was a great game." That series came down to the last 90 seconds, when the Rangers closed it out thanks to a gorgeous goal by Derek Stepan — and 35 brilliant saves by the King.
Coping With Loss
Lundqvist reflected on losing the final game of a close Eastern Conference Final that could have gone either way: "It was really hard to lose at home. We ran out of time to get going… We didn’t reach full potential. One bounce, something good, could have changed it, but it didn’t happen."
Part of a team
While he acknowledged that teams earn reputations, Lundqvist resisted categorizing the Blueshirts in any one way. "I don’t think I can characterize this team. There are so many different characters when you look within the team… (Mats) Zuccarello always wants to make fun of people, Dominic Moore is so smart, such a smart player.” When told that fans refer to defenseman Dan Girardi as "Iron Man" for blocking shots, he laughed. "He definitely has more bruises than anyone else in the locker room."
All in the Family
Lundqvist and wife, Therese, welcomed their second daughter, Juli, in March; their first child, Charlene, is now 3. When asked if we might see the Lundqvist Sisters between the pipes someday, their dad laughed. "Whatever makes them happy athletically. I love tennis, too, so I can see them getting interested in that. Growing up, my family had an approach that I think was good: support, don’t push."
What motivates a King?
He may already be the King, but for Lundqvist, there's always room for improvement. "Every year you challenge yourself to be better, be more successful." He also reminded us that his kingdom extends beyond New York: "The World Cup is next year, the national teams, new goals, new things to win."
You have to love it.
Even fans of other teams will tell you that no one deserves a Cup more than Henrik Lundqvist, and no one has come closer in the last two years, only to fall short. So what keeps him in the game? Fun — and love. "Have fun. You have to love practice, you have to love doing it. There's no shortcuts, just put in the hours. You love what you do, you do it better."