New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist celebrates receiving a wished-for Christmas-gift toaster at home in Sweden on Dec. 24, 2012. CREDIT: Twitter:
Photograph by: Dave Stubbs
MONTREAL - For a man in the fifth season of a six-year, $41.25-million contract, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist seems to be a man with modest needs.
Like the rest of the hockey universe, the athlete known as King Henrik was waiting out the NHL lockout at Christmastime, home in Sweden with his wife, Therese, and their 5½-month-old daughter, Charlise.
“It’s getting close people, what’s on your wish list this Christmas?” Lundqvist asked in the late afternoon hours of Dec. 23 on his Twitter account, “A LOT of you people are wishing for NHL hockey.. same here!! And I want a new toaster:) Seriously, I need a new toaster..”
Quality toast is important in life, even when you’re rolling in dough with a salary of $6.875 million — though earning not a single Swedish krona of NHL wage during the lockout that was in Day 100 when he wished aloud for the kitchen appliance.
The goalie was back online early the following evening, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, holding Charlise in his arms in an accompanying photo.
And then, at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Lundqvist tweeted a photo of himself wearing as broad a grin as in any picture taken the previous June with his just-awarded Vézina Trophy, having been voted the NHL’s top goaltender by the league’s 30 general managers.
In his left hand was his shiny, coveted toaster, his right arm pumping a closed-fist celebration.
“Boooyyyaaaa!! One wish down, one to go. …” Lundqvist tweeted with the hashtag #ToastsAllNightLong
The goalie was granted his other wish 13 days later with an end to the lockout.
On Saturday, Lundqvist returns to Montreal for the Rangers’ second game against the Canadiens this week.
The Habs solved him twice in their 3-1 win in New York, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk scoring before Raphael Diaz hit an empty Rangers net with six seconds on the clock.
It’s uncertain whether the 30-year-old will get the call at the Bell Centre, or whether Rangers coach John Tortorella will go with backup Martin Biron. The Blueshirts didn’t practice in Ottawa Friday following their shootout loss to the Senators the night before, chartering into Montreal Friday afternoon.
Lundqvist is 13-10-2 lifetime vs. the Canadiens with one shutout, a goals-against average of 2.88 and a save percentage of .896. He’s had his woes on Bell Centre ice, having played a beastly, even devilish 666 minutes here to record statistics of 4-5-2, 3.87 and .876.
(His first of three All-Star Game appearances was here during the Habs’ 2009 centennial season; he yielded six goals on 21 shots in a typical shooting gallery and could have been lit up a lot worse.)
If Canadiens fans were entertained by their heroes’ victory at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, the same can’t be said of Tortorella.
“It’s probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve been a part of, both teams,” the coach said shortly after the final siren. “It was two bad teams playing and we were worse than they were.”
Lundqvist wasn’t exactly lavish in his praise of the Canadiens’ fifth consecutive victory, an industrial effort by the Habs in their third game in four nights:
“They play it extremely boring,” he said. “They’re a smart team. They didn’t give up much and they were just waiting for mistakes.”
Then Thursday morning in Ottawa, having had two nights to sleep on it, in a War and Peace (for him) media chat of 3½ expansive minutes, Tortorella elaborated on the quality of Tuesday’s game: “I would have asked for my money back if I’m watching that thing.”
There’s a reasonable chance the product offered Saturday will be superior to that trashed by Torts.
Two Canadiens-Rangers games immediately come to mind:
Last Tuesday, as the clubs battled in New York, was the fifth anniversary of the Canadiens’ historic, near-miraculous rally from a 5-0 deficit, the Habs’ 6-5 Bell Centre shootout win becoming Montreal’s greatest comeback victory.
And on Jan. 16, 2011, Lundqvist momentarily lost his mind and went berserk on the Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty when the latter slid into his Bell Centre goal crease like a bowling ball, the netminder playing the role of the headpin.
Pacioretty arrived there when he was pushed by New York’s Brandon Dubinsky, not that Lundqvist was considering that possibility when he pounced onto the Canadien and tried to feed him his blocker, many times.
“If I get knocked into but I feel the player tries to stop, then that’s not going to happen,” Lundqvist would say of the mugging. “But I can’t stay calm all the time, and in this building it’s hard to stay calm. …
“I don’t know if all (Montreal) home games against everybody else are like the ones we play, but our games here are wild. They get so much energy from their fans. It seems like they’re right on top of you and there are always crazy bounces and momentum changes that makes it hard to stay calm.”
There was more fun that night when the notoriously short-fused Tortorella turned behind the Rangers bench to, well, converse with a heckling fan.
“Ask questions about the game, (expletive),” Tortorella said afterward, declining comment on the subject. “It was a good game, don’t ask questions about (the heckler).”
Many pucks have been fired and many bodies have been launched at Lundqvist since that night. Last season, in many ways, the goalie was simply the best in the game.
Lundqvist won the 2011-12 Vézina Trophy on his fourth nomination, his 39 victories, .930 save percentage and 1.97 average all career bests. He also earned eight shutouts, his sixth consecutive Rangers MVP award and for the third time played in the NHL All-Star Game.
To say that Rangers fans enjoy this guy would be to say that they kind of liked Mark Messier.
The veteran goalie is deeply involved in the community where he plays, supporting the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity that enriches the lives of underprivileged and disadvantaged children. A portion of proceeds from King Henrik’s popular Crown Collection clothing line benefits Garden of Dreams initiatives.
But it’s his work between the pipes that most endears him to fans of the Broadway Blueshirts. On more nights than not, he’s the toast of his team.
So long as Lundqvist understands that at the Bell Centre, “Boooyyyaaaa!!” won’t be a good thing.
Video of Lundqvist vs. Pacioretty on Jan. 16, 2011 (with only slightly biased commentary from MSG-TV): tinyurl.com/4emlm58
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