Lundqvist continues stellar play

BOSTON -- Who needs Rick Nash when you have Henrik Lundqvist?

The New York Rangers may very well improve should they land the coveted forward -- according to multiple reports, the Rangers are interested in trading for the Columbus Blue Jackets captain -- but they cannot possibly upgrade in the goaltending department.

Lundqvist has been an elite goaltender for years, but this season is different. The 29-year-old Swede is desperate for postseason success and he's playing like it. Separating himself from the other top-tier netminders, Lundqvist recorded his league-leading seventh shutout Tuesday, making 42 saves in the Rangers' 3-0 win over Boston at TD Garden.

The Rangers battled to beat the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but it was Lundqvist's phenomenal performance that boosted them a staggering nine points beyond the second-place Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings.

"I'm more determined this year," said Lundqvist, who now has 42 career shutouts. "The clock is ticking, This is my year seven, now. I'm excited about this group, how hard they work and how hard they've been playing. I have faith in them."

If Lundqvist can sustain this level of play, the Rangers will be a dangerous team to face in the playoffs, with or without Nash or any trade deadline acquisition made to bolster the squad. And even when the team has a lackluster performance -- which was true in stretches of Tuesday's match -- they'll always have a chance with him between the pipes.

Even against the top teams in the league, like Boston.

Lundqvist stymied the Bruins with every possible chance, whether it was a snow-angel save in the second period or a stop on a solo breakaway late in the third. He simply refused to give them anything.

"He was not going to let a puck in," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "You could see that."

The Broadway Hat, awarded to the team's best performer each game, has become almost commonplace atop Lundqvist's head. Tuesday's choice was, again, a no-brainer.

"He should've had six hats," Tortorella said.

Lundqvist's desire to bring a Stanley Cup back to Broadway has been a motivating force, but the precise management of his workload has allowed him to remain sharp in striving toward the goal.

With backup goaltender Martin Biron available to give him some rest -- Biron has made 13 starts this season-- Lundqvist said he has had ample opportunity to recharge and refresh at key times throughout the season.

"I feel great, mentally and physically, "Lundqvist said. "I've been working harder in practice. I have more energy to do it because I've been playing a little less. It makes a big difference."

That difference has been evident in what is looking to be a pretty solid Vezina Trophy campaign.

Lundqvist's numbers are tremendous -- he leads the league with a .941 save percentage and ranks second with a 1.77 goals against average -- but his steadiness is perhaps the most mind-boggling quality of his success.

"Consistency," said defenseman Michael Del Zotto. "You see other goalies that have some great nights and then have a couple off nights.
He's been unbelievable all year,"

When asked to recall Lundqvist's last "off" night, the 21-year-old Del Zotto was at a loss. "I don't think he's had one," he said.