A Desire To Be The Best

For Henrik Lundqvist, one of hockey's top goaltenders, it doesn't matter if it's pre-season, regular season or post-season…every single game matters.

“That's easy, it would be his work ethic,” said New York Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto, when asked what he admires most about his teammate and finalist for this year's Ted Lindsay Award, the league MVP trophy as voted on by the Players. “It could be practice, pre-game skate or any game – he doesn't like any puck getting past him.”

Not many did in 2011-12, a year that saw Lundqvist more than live up to his nickname, ‘King Henrik.'

The Swedish native appeared in 62 games during the regular season, leading the Rangers to their best regular season record since 1993-94. He set career-best marks in save percentage (.930) and goals-against average (1.97), ranking fourth in both categories. He also set a career-high in wins (39), finishing third in the category, and tied for third among goaltenders in shutouts (8).

Lundqvist is the only goaltender in NHL history to record at least 30 wins in each of his first seven seasons.{{QUOTE}}

His season got off to an emotional start when he and the Rangers faced off, as the visitors, against Frolunda, the Swedish team Lundqvist played seven seasons for before joining the NHL ranks in 2005.

The crowd chanted Lundqvist's name and gave him several standing ovations throughout the 4-2 New York win. He was also awarded a certificate that made him an ambassador to the city.

“Just the way the crowd reacted when he skated on the ice, even before things got started, it was wild,” said Del Zotto, who scored a goal in the Rangers' victory. “It was pretty incredible. But when you see what he's done for his country, winning the Olympics in 2006 and what he's done for us, he's a legend over there and he's loved over here. To be a part of that, to see what people think of him, it was a pretty cool experience.”

For those who skate in front of him, Lundqvist, who received his first nomination as a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award in 2012, exudes and instills confidence at every juncture of the game.

“It makes the game so much easier, especially being an offensive defenceman,” said Del Zotto, of the four-time Vezina Trophy nominee would become just the third goaltender to receive the “Most Outstanding Player,” joining Mike Liut (1980-81) and Dominik Hasek (1996-97, 1997-98). “You have that ability to join the rush and try to make plays offensively, without having to worry about too much. Nine times out of 10, he's going to make that stop, if you are caught up ice. You just try and protect the middle of the ice and let him see that puck. He's going to gobble it up pretty much every time.”

Teammate Brandon Prust knows what to expect from his goaltender every time he straps on the pads.

“His focus, determination and desire to stop every puck makes him the star he is,” praised Prust. “He's as competitive as they come. He thrives on pressure.”

Lundqvist, the first goaltender to be nominated for the Ted Lindsay since Roberto Luongo was a finalist in 2006-07, has 252 career NHL victories, accompanied by 21 shutouts, including 19 over the past two campaigns.

His first goal, however, is in bringing a Stanley Cup to New York.

“He wants to be the best and he works hard to be the best every time he's in he net,” offered Del Zotto, of Lundqvist, who set a Rangers club record for games played in a single season with 73 in 2009-10.

“He's always there for us. He wants us to win. It doesn't matter if it's pre-season, road hockey, whatever it happens to be. He has that desire to want to be at the top of his game every night in every situation. It could be game one of the year, or in game seven of the playoffs, he's always prepared.”

Lundqvist is also dressed for success, too. In 2004, he was awarded Best Dressed in Sweden. Two years later, he was named one of People's World's 100 Most Beautiful People. In December 2008, he was named one of Page Six Magazine's Top 25 Best Dressed in 2008.

 Can Del Zotto outdo him when it comes to fashion style?

 “Please don't even go there,” laughed Del Zotto. “I don't think he'd like to hear that.”

Losing, in any circumstance, just doesn't suit the man known as King Henrik.

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