Henrik Lundqvist reached one of the greatest milestones of his career Saturday night when he became the 12th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 400-win plateau. With the victory, which came in the Rangers’ 4-2 defeat of the Colorado Avalanche, Lundqvist is now set to march even further up the all-time wins list. One more victory puts him into a tie for 11th all-time with Chris Osgood. Three wins later, he’ll have passed Grant Fuhr and cracked into the top 10. And by the time the season is over, Lundqvist could be ahead of Glenn Hall, too.
That’s some exclusive company for Lundqvist, to be sure. The class he’s in now has given him one foot inside the door when it comes to the Hall of Fame, as only two goaltenders in league history, Osgood and Curtis Joseph, have won more without being given the game’s greatest honor. It almost goes without saying then that Lundqvist is now set to have his mentioned alongside many of the all-time greats, netminders like Terry Sawchuk and Jacques Plante, but Lundqvist might deserve more.
For most, the debate about the greatest goaltender of all-time comes down to three netminders: Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek. There are a litany of reasons why those three are the creme de la creme of goaltending, but it boils down to this: Brodeur is the winningest goaltender of all-time and the model of consistency; Roy is arguably the best big-game netminder in history, with four Stanley Cups and three Conn Smythes to back up that claim; and Hasek, well, his style was eye-popping, his saves often spectacular and he posted some of the most incredible statistics the league has ever seen. He’s a two-time MVP, too.
On the surface alone, Lundqvist doesn’t have near the credentials of his counterparts. The trio of Brodeur, Roy and Hasek combined for 13 Vezina Trophies during their time in the league, with Hasek’s six Vezina wins leading the way. There are also 13 Jennings Trophies, nine Stanley Cups, two Hart Trophies, two Lester B. Pearson Awards and 19 end-of-season all-star teams between the three legendary goaltenders. Lundqvist, on the other hand, has only one Vezina over the course of his 12-year career and two finishes on the all-star teams.
So, as far as pure hardware goes, Lundqvist probably doesn’t get the nod to be mentioned alongside Roy, Brodeur and Hasek. But the game, more than anything, is about wins, and when it comes to piling up victories, Lundqvist stands to go down as one of the very best in league history.
Since coming to the Rangers in 2005-06, Lundqvist has been as consistent a netminder as anyone. In every season he’s been in the league, save the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, Lundqvist has won 30 games. He accomplished the feat as a rookie, bettered his total by seven wins as a sophomore, set a new career-best with 38 victories in 2008-09, improved that mark to 39 by 2011-12 and now, at 34, Lundqvist is on pace to match his career best, with the distinct possibility that he could hit the 40-win mark.
How incredible is that feat? Here’s some perspective: no active goaltender has won 30 games in more seasons than Lundqvist. Roberto Luongo, for instance, has only managed 30 wins eight times in his career despite the fact his career stretches an additional four seasons. Some of the game’s all-time greats don’t even match up. Fuhr only hit the 30-win mark four times, Hasek only managed to win 30 games seven times and Ed Belfour’s only got nine seasons of 30 or more wins.
The 30-win seasons have helped Lundqvist climb the all-time wins list at a rapid pace, too. His 100th win came by the time he was three seasons into his career, he hit the 200-win milestone by his sixth season in the league and win No. 300 came in his ninth year as a Ranger. Lundqvist has moved up the all-time wins list at such a rate, in fact, that Luongo — who, again, has an additional four seasons under his belt — is the only active goaltender with more wins and he’s only 51 ahead. That’s important, too, especially when it comes to Lundqvist’s credentials as one of the best of all-time.
Given the rate Lundqvist has won, is winning and will seemingly continue to win, he stands to hang up his skates challenging, and potentially passing, Roy for second on the all-time wins list. If Lundqvist’s win pace remains the same this campaign and he finishes with 39 wins, he’ll have tacked an additional 13 wins on to the 400 he’s already achieved. That would push him in ninth all-time, and he’d still have another four years left on his contract with New York. Another 30-win season come 2017-18 and Lundqvist moves into seventh, ahead of Plante and Tony Esposito. Tack another 30 on and Lundqvist surpasses Sawchuk and Joseph, and he could be one of only four goaltenders with 500 wins by the 2019-20 season, joining Brodeur, Roy and, in all likelihood, Luongo.
It’s the years that follow that 500th win that will make all the difference in his chase for the top of the all-time wins list, though. A 30-win campaign in 2020-21 would put Lundqvist up to 533 victories, 18 shy of Roy for second all-time. Does he play another season? Does he attempt to surpass Roy? Or will he already be ahead of the legendary goaltender? After all, there could be seasons of 30-plus wins in there. There’s also going to be the question of where Luongo ends up, too. He’s 37 now and has another five years left on his contract. If he plays out his deal, is he ahead of Roy? And if so, how far behind will Lundqvist be by then?
No matter how many wins Lundqvist compiles, though, there are always going to be those who value winning the Stanley Cup — picking up a victory in the one game that matters most — more than anything. But given what Lundqvist has accomplished as the Rangers’ last line of defense, there’s no way failing to win a championship should tarnish Lundqvist’s Hall of Fame calibre credentials.
So, does Lundqvist belong in the conversation not among just the best of his era, but the best of all-time? That will probably be up to where he sits on the career wins list when he decides to put the pads away for good. At Lundqvist’s current pace, though, it’s looking like Brodeur, Roy and Hasek could have some company in the not-so-distant future.
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