Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Sunday, while Sidney Crosby was busy doing Sidney Crosby things (aka being a pest), Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist playfully squirted him in the face with his water bottle.
Too bad the Penguins couldn't pour any water on Lundqvist's fire.
For the first time in 88 years of existence, the Broadway Blue Shirts have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. It's an impressive feat to be sure but one that makes a bit more sense when you have the best goalie in hockey defending your crease.
No thanks necessary. This is what King Henrik does. He takes a six by four- foot net and turns it into a centimeter. The guy's like David Copperfield on skates.
Going through airport security is an enjoyable experience compared to facing Lundqvist. Pittsburgh learned this in Game 5. And then again in Game 6 and ... well you get the idea. The point is, they're going home while the Rangers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in the last three seasons.
Lundqvist's beautiful Game 7 probably belongs in a museum somewhere. The 35 saves he registered came in all shapes and sizes. There were 30-foot slap shots, backhanders, rebounds, loopty-loop wrist shots. The Pens threw everything at him but the kitchen sink. And if they had one of those I'm sure they would have thrown that in too.
Pittsburgh pummeled him with 13 shots in the final period. Still, the stubborn Lundqvist wouldn't budge. The series ended with him turning aside 102 of the last 105 shots. That computes to a .971 save percentage. Translation: unstoppable.
Lundqvist was perfectly fine in the first round (2.11 GAA, .919 save percentage vs. Philadelphia) but he saved his best stuff for Pittsburgh. In seven games, he logged an impossible 1.87 GAA to go with an equally unheard of .940 save percentage.
Where do Lundqvist's second round heroics rank on the pantheon of awesome? Pretty high up there, actually.
Consider the last four goaltenders to win the Conn Smythe trophy: Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas, Cam Ward and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Lundqvist's .931 save percentage this postseason compares rather favorably to the likes of Quick (.929 en route to the 2012 Stanley Cup) and Ward (.920 when he won the Conn Smythe with Carolina in '06). His goals against average (1.99), though nowhere near what Giguere put up in '03 (1.62 GAA in 21 appearances), is similar to the one Thomas posted in 2011 (2.00 GAA in 25 starts for the B's). And none of those guys had to face Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, who are basically the hockey equivalent of the Denver Broncos (I guess that makes Sid the Kid Peyton Manning in this metaphor), have led the league in scoring two of the last three seasons. Since 2012, they've feasted Kobayashi-style on opposing net-minders. Have a look at the damage they've inflicted over the last three postseasons.
2014 - Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus: 3.18 GAA, .908 SV%
2013 - Tuukka Rask, Boston: 0.44 GAA, .985 SV%
2013 - Craig Anderson, Ottawa: 4.33 GAA, .884 SV%
2013 - Evgeni Nabokov, NY Islanders: 4.44 GAA, .842 SV%
Aside from Lundqvist's spirit animal, Tuukka Rask, it's been an absolute blood bath. Even Bobrovsky, last year's Vezina Trophy recipient, couldn't slow down the Pens. He's probably off fishing somewhere with Roy Hibbert.
The Penguins should have known better than to let the series go seven games. Say what you want about Lundqvist but the man never loses a Game 7 (except that one time). He's 5-1 in those games with a 9.65 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA. In all other playoff games, Lundqvist owns a slightly less spectacular 2.33 GAA to go with a still solid but not super-human .919 save percentage.
The Pens messed with the bull. They got the horns.
Good luck Boston/Montreal. Better bring the kitchen sink.