Henrik Lundqvist‘s NHL hockey career began in October 2005, when the 23-year-old rookie allowed three goals on 27 shots in an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. He got better after that.
Hank’s long and storied career officially ended today, and as hard as we try we will never properly appreciate how special this player was. Lundqvist was so good for so long, and he did it despite playing behind the New York Rangers, whose defensive talent was just plain cold piss for fifteen years.
Lundqvist’s career started in 2005, but we only have good data since 2007-08.
Of every NHL goalie who suited up since then, Hank sits:
Actually, let’s pause on that last one for a second. Here’s every other NHL goalie in opponent goals saved above expected.
Click to zoom in
Now here’s the exact same data but this time with Hank.
Head and shoulders and then some.
Henrik Lundqvist’s save percentage since 2007 is .918, which doesn’t seem special. But it is special. It’s specialness is just masked by what I call the Lundqvist Appreciation Coefficient. The LAC is a markdown we unconsciously put on goalies for playing for teams that are positively piss-tier in defensive quality.
Of that same cohort from above, here’s one more stat:
Fifteen years of the Rangers allowed their opponents more quality per shot than any other goalie faced in our era. So Lundqvist got shellacked for a decade and a half, but put up a very good overall save percentage. Here’s a visualization of that:
Lundqvist never had a season in which his expected save percentage was above league average. He played every year on hardcore mode. And he put up solid numbers anyway. “Solid numbers” means he improved his expected save percentage far more than any other goalie in the league. Here’s one last ridiculous bar graph.
We’ll never know what would have happened if Lundqvist played for a team that was not totally incompetent at defense. That’s a shame, but I won’t let it spoil what has been a legendary career. Henrik was excellent from the drop and he remained so for his entire career. Had he played for a team that was average instead of execrable, he’d have an infinity gauntlet full of Cup rings.
(Don’t get me wrong though. I hate this guy’s guts. He played four games seven against Washington, allowing four goals. Three wins. One shutout. Absolute bozo.)
Congratulations to one of the greatest on his retirement.
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