Henrik Lundqvist (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
Henrik Lundqvist became the first goaltender to win 30 games in 10 of his first 11 seasons, and his continued success has set him up to surpass some of the game’s most iconic goaltenders.
With his 30th victory of the season Thursday, Henrik Lundqvist accomplished something no goaltender — not Martin Brodeur, not Patrick Roy, not Dominik Hasek — ever has before. Lundqvist’s win over the St. Louis Blues made him the first goaltender in league history to win 30 games in 10 of his first 11 seasons, and there’s reason to believe he could be chasing down one of the all-time greats.
Lundqvist, 33, now sits at 369 career wins, good enough to tie him with Tom Barrasso for 16th all-time. But it’s not as if Lundqvist is done yet and by the time the season ends, there’s a chance he’ll be celebrating win 380, which will be enough to put Lundqvist ahead of Andy Moog, John Vanbiesbrouck and only five back of passing Mike Vernon.
Lundqvist’s feat is incredibly impressive, and more impressive yet is that were it not for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, he likely would have 11-straight 30-plus victory seasons. In the 43 games Lundqvist played that season, he won 24 games. If that were a full season, Lundqvist would have easily passed the 30-win plateau and 40 would have been within reach.
Even without those extra 16 wins, though, there’s reason to believe Lundqvist could end his career as one of the most successful goaltenders of all time. And there’s a real shot he could be chasing down the legendary Roy for second on the all-time wins list.
If Lundqvist finishes this season slightly off his current pace, say he closes the campaign with 35 wins, that puts him at 374 for his career. Using his full seasons, of which there are 11, Lundqvist has averaged 35 wins per season over each 82-game campaign he has played. Lundqvist still has five years and $38.5 million to be paid out on his current contract, and if he doesn’t hang them up before his deal ends and maintains his form, that would be an additional 175 wins.
Of course, there’s a massive caveat to this: his health. Incredibly, Lundqvist’s only major injury in his career came last season on a freak injury when he caught a puck in the throat. The injury caused Lundqvist to miss 24 games, and it was the first time in his career he had missed more than seven games in a row. In fact, before the throat injury, Lundqvist had missed 13 games in nine seasons. Maintaining his health is what has allowed Lundqvist to string together 30-win seasons in succession throughout his career.
That said, an additional 175 wins over the next five seasons would mean a 39-year-old Lundqvist would finish his current contract with the Rangers having somewhere in the range of 550 career victories. And that’s a low estimation, given this is assuming he doesn’t reach the 40-win mark this season, but it would still put him short of Roy. He ended his career 551 victories and hung up his skates at 37. The difference, though, is that Lundqvist didn’t debut in the league until he was 23. Roy started as a 20-year-old.
If Lundqvist did come up shy, though, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to see him continue on in New York — or elsewhere, if that’s what it came to. Over the past several seasons, there has been no indication that Lundqvist’s game is anywhere near falling off and few would question at this point whether his longevity will be an issue. Really, it’s been almost the exact opposite. Since 2008-09, when Lundqvist posted a career-low .912 save percentage as a 25-year-old, his save percentage has never been below .920. Furthermore, there hasn’t been a single season in the past seven seasons where his 5-on-5 save percentage has been below .929, and this season he’s the league-leader of goaltenders to play at least 1,000 5-on-5 minutes with a SP of .943. His game has been trending up over the past three seasons, which is a scary thought for shooters.
That gives the outside chance that Lundqvist, as far-fetched as it may seem, could actually become the second 600-win goaltender in league history or challenge the all-time wins record held by Brodeur at 691. If Lundqvist’s win total can stay closer to 40 for the next few seasons before his contract comes up, he’d be little more than 120 back of Brodeur. The only issue then is continuing to keep it up after age 40.
Worth noting, though, is that even if Lundqvist does get past Roy, and even if he comes close to reaching Brodeur, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury could give Brodeur, Roy and Lundqvist a run for their money. Two years Lundqvist’s junior, Fleury is only 23 wins back of the Rangers netminder as of Friday. By season’s end, that could be even fewer, and Fleury’s Penguins look like a team that could rack up significant win totals over the remaining three seasons of his deal. Fleury started younger — he was 21 during his first full season — and could potentially have a longer career simply based on that. If he keeps up his current win pace and stuck around in his 40s, there’s an outside shot at a 680-plus win career.
Still, though, Lundqvist will remain the first to win 30 games in 10 of 11 years to start a career. And, really, it would have been all 11 if not for the lockout that claimed half a campaign. That’s an incredible mark to hit, especially given the company he’s edged out. There’s a good chance before his time with the Rangers, he’ll also be celebrating passing Roy on the wins list.