Henrik Lundqvist: The King Lives On

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henrik lundqvist
Bridget Samuels

One of the most popular goaltenders of the modern era, Henrik Lundqvist dominated the crease at Madison Square Garden throughout his career. When he called it a day in 2020—20 years after he was drafted by the New York Rangers—the Swedish netminder had amassed 887 games; 459 wins; a 2.43 goals against average; 64 shutouts; and a very strong .918 save percentage. Sadly, after devoting 30 years to the game of hockey, Lundqvist had no choice but to end his career after having open-heart surgery to replace an aortic valve.

Still, at 6’1″ and 182 lbs, by his own admission Henrik Lundqvist was never particularly strong and wasn’t tall enough to be an imposing presence. So, he had to train hard to increase his skill, reflexes and agility in the crease. His training methods and commitment to keeping fit clearly worked out for him, as the legendary goalie hit the ripe old age of 38 before he had to hang up the skates.

Goaltenders are a very different breed of hockey player. Particularly as they get older, netminders need to train and concentrate on very different areas as the skates they must don are very different from those worn by their skating teammates on the ice. They’re also arguably the most important player in the game, as they’re required to withstand the onslaught while remaining on the ice for the whole game. All of which makes it useful for any goalie to pick up tips from someone with the longevity of “The King.”

The Lundqvist Legacy

Breaking into the New York Rangers ranks in the 2005-06 season, Henrik Lundqvist quickly earned the moniker of The King for his dominant showings in goal. The Swede became the star attraction for fans, never failing to go all-in for his team and often standing on his head to bring home a victory. While he may go down as one of the best-ever players to never win the Stanley Cup, as discussed at thehockeywriters.com, it was Lundqvist’s efforts that enabled the Rangers to contend.

The 2019-20 season spelled the end of Lundqvist’s superb career, where he finished with a very strong regular-season record as well as a postseason record of 130 games; 61 wins; a .921 save percentage; 2.30 goals against average; and 10 shutouts. What might prove to be one of his more lasting impacts will be his influence on the goaltenders coming through, such as Igor Shesterkin, who joined the Rangers in 2019 and just won the Vezina Trophy.

It’s well known that the Russian phenom looked up to Lundqvist, even saying after his trophy win that the Swede was his favorite, “no debate.” The King has also said that, even though there was a language barrier at first, his great attitude allowed the then-NHL-newcomer to work hard in training with the Rangers. The veteran’s presence looks to still be powering New York’s new starter, who will be decisive in the coming season.

With the Vezina Trophy stashed securely in his locker, Shesterkin is still the favorite to get his second at +250 and fifth at +900 to take the Hart Memorial Trophy. Of course, with the netminder being so important, if Shesterkin maintains a strong performance it bodes well for the Rangers’ hopes of getting to hoist the Stanley Cup. As it stands, they’re out at +1800 with betting to win Lord Stanley’s trophy, but those odds could quickly shorten if Shesterkin is as good or even better than he was last season.

Keys to Lundqvist’s Quality and Longevity

As mentioned, strength and stature weren’t Lundqvist’s strong points, nor were they his focus in training. The Swede homed in on stamina, flexibility and lower-body power. As detailed in this article, he even planned on learning yoga to reach that peak level of flexibility. Beyond that, Lundqvist’s workouts would include high-intensity sprints on rest days, weighted lunges and one-legged squats, and medicine-ball catching to work his upper-body and blocking-zone strength.

Away from hockey-specific exercises, many goalies—Henrik Lundqvist included—have turned to the sport of tennis. Playing against someone else or solo is particularly useful for working reaction times and enhancing your stamina. There’s a lot of hand-eye coordination and quick lateral movements generated by swift footwork. Throw in the upper-body twists, lunges and turns, and you can see how goaltenders can benefit from playing tennis.

Finally, an incredibly important part of the whole goalie training process is stretching. Lundqvist was famous for doing so at almost any possible moment. In fact, he had an extensive pre-game stretching routine that was followed up by getting in some more stretches when taking to the ice, during timeouts, throughout practice, and even after the opening ceremonies of each game. It’s essential for the flexibility needed to make those highlight-reel saves.

Henrik Lundqvist was one of the best and most beloved goaltenders of the modern-NHL era. He has now passed the torch and, hopefully, some of his expert training tips to the new Number One for the Rangers.

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