NY Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist Finally Returns to Olympic Form

Rob WatersCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2014

Despite a rough start to the 2013-14 season, Henrik Lundqvist has rebounded in force.
Despite a rough start to the 2013-14 season, Henrik Lundqvist has rebounded in force.Scott Levy/Getty Images

It took half of the 2013-14 season for the New York Rangers starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but it appears he is back in the Vezina Trophy and Olympic form of years past.

The questions and concerns of Lundqvist's play began early this season, and an "undisclosed injury" that dated back to the Oct. 7 game against the Los Angeles Kings complicated his progress. 

Throw in a whirlwind departure of former Rangers' backup goaltender Martin Biron, the impressive, Cinderella-esque rise of new backup Cam Talbot and the prolonged contract negotiations that left Lundqvist's future with the Rangers in an uneasy position as interference to his play.

It wasn't until a Jan. 3 victory on the road versus the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, that Lundqvist finally returned to the form all of the media, fans and I'm sure the Rangers organization itself expected. 

Lundqvist tweeted immediately following the win that it "felt like we [Rangers] had 6 goalies out there [in the] last minute." He added, "What ever it takes right?!"

After letting up two goals in the second period only 1:48 apart, Lundqvist appeared rattled in net. It started to look like the Rangers may not have been able to answer back, but Lundqvist dialed up the intensity and stopped all shots to preserve the tie going into the third period. 

A late third-period goal by Carl Hagelin, a fellow Swede who will also appear on Team Sweden with Lundqvist in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, gave the Rangers the lead they needed. But it would take the shutdown defense of Ryan McDonagh, named to the Team USA roster, and Lundqvist to lead the team to a victory.

Lundqvist made an impressive flurry of saves in the third period, making desperate cross-crease saves, at times moving with the speed of an agent out of The Matrix. Finishing the night with 35 saves, this marked the return to dominance in net that Lundqvist is not only capable of, but expected to be.

The success keeps coming for Lundqvist. A commanding 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 12 cemented not only the winning attitude of the Rangers coming into the second half of the season, but the near-shutout-worthy performance of Lundqvist in net. Lundqvist made 37 saves in net, marking his eighth game this season recording 30 or more saves in a game.

Despite such a rough start to the season, Lundqvist is getting hot at the right time and propelling the Rangers to the success many expected the team would prosper from under the offensive-oriented system inserted by new head coach Alain Vigneault.

Vigneault acknowledged the rebound of Lundqvist after the 4-1 win over the Flyers: "He was a little bit off and I think right now he’s back on track. He’s making the key saves at the right time."

Lundqvist has recorded a 5-1-1 record in his last seven starts. The Rangers have also improved to 8-2-1 in their last 11 games played.

Thanks to Lundqvist's heroics, the netminder went 3-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in the past week. The Rangers (24-20-3, 51 points) are now third place in the Metropolitan Division. 

"The King" has once again retained his throne.