Everyone knows the Blueshirts squeaked out the series last night. We’re all aware the Caps are next, and they’ve had the Rangers’ post-season number. The Rangers were cruising toward a first-round upset in 2009 but choked away a 3-1 series lead. They were bounced by Ovi & Co. again last year in much easier fashion. But none of that is news. It’s just been released that Henrik Lundqvist is a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP along with Evgeni Malkin & Steven Stamkos. Malkin & Stamkos? Really? Why patronize them? Just hand over the hardware to the King right now. And in case anyone is wondering, yes, Hank the Tank will be the first goalie ever to win the Vezina, Hart, Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) and the Stanley Cup in the same season. Anyway, let’s get Stamkos off the list right now. 60 goals – impressive. MVP-worthy? Not when your team doesn’t make the playoffs bro. Not when half those goals were scored after your team was down by 4 goals. It’s the equivalent to A-Rod’s 8th-inning home runs in a 14-3 game. I’m not saying the kid isn’t awesome, but it’s a little easier when you’re playing meaningless hockey & the defense is playing with their sticks upside-down to make it fair. Geno Malkin? Well, that could be tough to argue. Dude went apeshit once Cindy Crosby got her migraine. No one in the top-20 in scoring at season’s end played less games than him, yet he ran away with the title by 12 over Stamkos. #1 in shots, #2 in goals, #3 in assists, #2 in power play points…that’s a motherfucking year. He’s got talent around him, sure, but when the Pens made their run to the 2-seed from February on, it was all because of Malkin’s 50 points in 32 games. Cindy was back for the last half of that stretch but no one will argue it was Malkin’s show.
But it comes down to this – let’s say the roles were reversed and Malkin missed the time Crosby did yet #87 was healthy. There’s no reason to believe the Pens wouldn’t have finished just as strong. Now take Lundqvist out of the mix – where are the Rangers? Sure as shit not playing with a first-round home ice advantage, that’s for sure. Put a mediocre goalie between the pipes at MSG and you’re looking at a team like…well, Ottawa. All of a sudden the mediocre Blueshirts offense is under a microscope daily & those 21 1-goal victories are most likely cut in half. I’m not taking away anything from the team in front of him – when given the opportunity to win, the Rangers got it done. But those opportunities came, more times than not, because the King was making saves while standing on his crown.
If you want to argue Jonathan Quick as a better candidate for the league’s best goalie, I get it. I disagree, but I get it. But for MVP, when you have a goalie in the mix leading the way to a #1 conference seed, it’s a no-brainer. He’s the anchor. Last line of defense called upon to bail his team out time after time. No one did that any better & was more responsible for their team’s ascension than Henrik Lundqvist. So polish his royal scepter accordingly.