Regulars here on MTM know full well that my critical lens is always focused on the play – and nickname – of Sweden’s goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who happens to man the pipes for the New York Rangers. My hockey pest goading/scrutiny and observations on The King’s play gets Blueshirts fans’ blood boiling or pulling their hair out (Short Matt), if you have any. But even the staunchest of Lundqvist fans must admit he looked more like the Swedish Chef of Muppets fame early in the NHL season, as he adjusted to the smaller NHL-mandated goalie pad size. Like a women’s hygeine product, a larger pad absorbs more; like bigger goalie pads. This stands to reason why Lundqvist was a Vezina candidate last year but won’t this year, since he couldn’t stop the flow of pucks into the net during the NHL season’s first month.
Talent is supposed to trump gear and as of late, King Henrik is rounding into the form that has made him an international hockey sensation. His improved play, coupled with the illness to Finland and Boston Bruins goaltending ace, Tuukka Rask, that weakened him from the quarter-finals on, the King Sweden finds himself on the cusp of another gilded disk.
Who to root for? This may sway you:
In the other crease for Team Canada is double Canadian, Carey Price. Price plays for the hated Les Habitantes – the Montreal Canadiens en anglaise – and as a result weighs heavily on my Boston Bruins heart because Patrice Bergeron is part of Team Frog.
Team USA made Price look like Ken Dryden on Friday. This is not to say Price hasn’t been stellar for most of the NHL campaign – because save for a two-week spell he has been one of the league’s better net detectives. The other day Angry Ward reminded me that Canada is the new Russia; the squad attracting the most American Hockey Hate – after medal losses in both Women’s and Men’s play over the last two Olympiads.
Side Bar: I also cannot root for any team Sidney Crosby (or Kris Kunitz) plays for, period.
The Swedes also have Rangers left winger Karl Hagelin – whose game I love – and Bruins forward Loui Erikkson, to help fill the net for the Scandinavians. So with a Swedish victory, I proclaim a new nickname for Lundquist: Midas or Mr. T., since he’ll have more gold around his neck than any association with silver… as in drinking from the Stanley Cup. Or we can just still go with the King of No Cups.
Enjoy the game and come back tomorrow for DJ Eberle, if he didn’t maim himself on the ski slopes.
P.s… This one From The Vault shows how to handcuff a Hapless Hank: