When Henrik Lundqvist steps in between the pipes for Game 7 against Ottawa on Thursday night, he will be doing so as a Vezina Trophy finalist. The Rangers goalie is one of the three choices for the award given on June 20 to the league's top goalie.
"I'm really honored and proud. I take a lot of pride in that. I worked really hard. I wanted to push my game this year. I prepared a certain way to be ready for this year, with all the things we had going on early on," Lundqvist said. "I feel great about it. I'm really happy about it also. I think the team should take some credit for that, absolutely, without them, there's no way I'd be up there. I'm happy about that."
The goalie has been selected as a finalist for the fourth times after arguably his best season. He set career-highs in wins (39), save percentage (.930) and goals against average (1.97), and was among the tops in the league in all three categories. Lundqvist also had eight shutouts while leading his team to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The other candidates are Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
"He's been the rock of our team," wing Marian Gaborik said. "The stone for us all year. He's been consistent and we wouldn't be where we are and where we finished the regular season without him. He challenged himself in practice and in games every night. We're confident having him behind us. I think he's got very good support from Marty (Biron) to help him out there. Definitely, he deserves to win it."
The Rangers are going to need Lundqvist to be at his best on Thursday or they will be unceremoniously dumped in the first round. New York's offense has struggled at times during the series, forcing Lundqvist to be at his best to keep his team in games. Lundqvist has a .942 save percentage and 1.82 goals against average in the series.
"Just mentally you try to block everything that you can't really control," Lundqvist said about playing in a Game 7. "You focus on the things you can control and every time you're in a game where your season is on the line, of course, the mental aspect is a bigger challenge. If you control emotions and focus on the right things, it doesn't have to change anything. I'm going to approach this game the same way I approached the last game and the game before that."
After a controversial goal late in Game 6 gave the Senators the chance to tie the game, Lundqvist blasted the referees, saying "Someone wants them back in the game." Lundqvist has not been fined by the league and said on Wednesday that he has moved on from the incident.
"It wasn't the best thing to do to scream and be that upset but there's a lot of emotions out there. End of game and there's a lot of the line," he said. "Sometimes you do stuff where maybe you should have thought it through before you say something, but I've moved on."