Big Ben Tuesday: King Lundqvist Passing Legends Plante and Sawchuk

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King City, Ontario: Sure, I could spit out something about the Giants beating up on the dregs of the league or I could finally write the long awaited (I assume) retrospective on the Yankees season. But I’m thinking about The King on Broadway, Henrik Lundqvist and his ascension up the ladder of the all time wins list. And I’m here to pay tribute to the two goalies presently sandwiched around him on that list, Jacques Plante and Terry Sawchuk.

Lundqvist won his 439th game last night, beating the Dallas Stars 2-1. Many of you expected the Rangers to be pretty bad this year (treason!) and for the King’s progression to sputter. But the Blueshirts been shockingly competent and Hank is playing like a man reborn. It’s conceivable that Hank will find himself in third or fourth place on the list when he hangs up his waffle and paddle.

Jacques Plante

Now it should be pointed out that Hank had the good fortune of playing the bulk of his career under the shootout system with no ties. Jacques Plante, for example, the man Hank most recently leapfrogged, had 146 career ties. If Plante played under the current shootout rules, Hank would still be way behind him.

Hey, maybe this thing will help

The most interesting thing about Plante is that he was the first goalie to play regularly with a mask. Plante had made the crude mask because of a sinusitis infection but had only worn it in practice. Then he broke his nose early in a game and would not return to the game without his mask.

Toe Blake, Plante’s coach, was furious. He thought Plante’s vision would be impaired. He agreed to let him wear the mask until his face healed. But Plante won the game and went on a 18 game unbeaten streak and the mask was there to stay.

Now, impaired vision may have been Toe’s concern. But it’s hard to imagine a time when goalies were berated for wanting to wear a mask. “Get back in there, I don’t care if you get smashed in the face with a puck. You’re not wearing that mask, you wimp.” I know the sticks didn’t have the crazy curves and there were fewer high shots. Still, pucks are freaking hard. It was a different time for sure.

Uncatchable

Terry Sawchuk

Next on the list for Hank is Terry Sawchuk, sitting six wins ahead. Again, Sawchuk had 172 ties. If there were shootouts and he only won 40 percent of them, he would still be 74 games ahead of Lundqvist. Someone check my math. These guys didn’t even have the five minute OT to scratch out a few more wins.

Sawchuk is the only goalie besides Marty Brodeur to have over 100 shutouts and died as the all time leader in wins. And man, did this cat have an interesting life.

He was surly and didn’t like the press. He battled depression and self medicated with booze. (By the way, that description fits ever MTM writer except Buddy Diaz, who’s quite pleasant.)

Sawchuk died after a season when he was still playing for the Rangers. He got into a fight with a teammate over expenses on the Long Island home they rented. Sawchuk landed on his teammate’s knee and damaged several internal organs. After several operations, he died.

Chicks don’t dig this many scars

The NHL didn’t pay so well in those days I guess. Sawchuck took responsibility for the incident before he died and called it “a fluke.” His death was ruled accidental.

How High Can Hank Go?

As a rejuvenated Hank climbs the list, I think it’s important to pay tribute to the royalty who came before him. Hank is never going to catch Brodeur at 691 or Patrick Roy at 551, but Ed Belfour in third with 484 is only 45 wins away.

Belfour will be in fourth place by the time Lundqvist gets there because active Roberto Luongo is only six wins behind Belfour. (Lundqvist defeated Luongo on Saturday.) But how much longer can he keep playing? The guy was born in the 70s, for Fuhr’s sake.

Come back tomorrow for Angry Ward, who is only 37 posts behind Short Matt for the all time lead. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.

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About the Author ()

Ben Whitney comes from journalistic stock. Aside from his brothers, rumor has that his great-great grandfather was the youngest brother of Eli Whitney and covered the earliest "rounders" games. Big Ben is also another New York Rugby Club player/pal of Different Matt, Short Matt and Junoir Blaber. He likes film noir discussions, has twin girls and took up ice hockey after retiring from rugby.

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