LOS ANGELES — As the Los Angeles Kings rained down shots upon shots in the third period of the Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Henrik Lundqvist didn’t necessarily perform magic when he stopped them all but he came close.
The New York Rangers goaltender is playing in his first-career Stanley Cup Final and many in New York are crying, "Finally!" So far, King Henrik has looked every bit the part of a Stanley Cup goalie.
"He’s been huge," said Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. "He’s a big reasons why we’re here. Probably one of the No.1 reasons. He just want to give us a chance to win by doing it the only way he knows – that’s saving pucks, making desperation saves and making sure that when a team is making a push late in the game he’s standing on his head."
There was a little shock and awe for Lundqvist preparing for his first ever attempt at a Cup run but there was no signs of it as he took the ice. Lundqvist saved 40-of-43 shots faced and that was even with help in the form of 12 blocked shots.
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter anointed him as the best goalie in the league Friday afternoon but it’s much more than that for the Rangers. There is no Blueshirt with a C on their chest as captain Ryan Callahan was traded earlier this season. Brad Richards has played that role but the constant presence of Lundqvist has also lent it self to that presence.
"He’s the backbone of this team and has been that for the last 10 years," said Rangers winger Carl Hagelin. "He’s very calm but at the same time if there is something he doesn’t like he will snap and tell people what he thinks. He’s a fairly quiet guy but if he needs to say something he will."
With Lundqvist back in the net, the Rangers never feel that they are out of a game.
"Some games, with him back there, all it takes is for us to score one goal," Hagelin said. "And we know we have enough in here to score on goal. He’s the MVP of this team."
For the King’s part, he’s taking the whole scene in. His preparation and play, both mental and physical, remain the same but it’s taken him 13 years to get here and he’s not taking even a minute of his first Stanley Cup Final for granted.
"I think it’s a mix of a little bit of everything, being here," he said. "I told someone it feels like you’re at All Star weekend because there’s so much media that normally you don’t see. There’s a lot of people that come up and ask you different types of questions right now. But then at the same time you’re really focused on what you need to do. So it’s a mix of being in the Olympics, being at All Star weekend.
"But it’s fun. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s also exciting, you know, to just see a different side."
Over in the South Bay, Sutter said defenseman Robyn Regehr will likely be inserted back into the lineup. Regehr was available for Game 1 but Sutter elected to use Matt Greene instead.
He wasn’t necessarily expecting to be used, telling the media after practice: "It’s a coach’s decision. I have no idea. If you look at the previous two, we’ve won the last two with the same lineup. That’s what I’m expecting. My job right now is just to work and be ready as much as I can. If I get the call, then go out and play my game."
But just a few minutes later, Sutter said the veteran defenseman will "probably" play in Saturday’s Game 2.