When it comes to impressive milestones, some numbers register with players, fans, and media more than others.
With that in mind, it’s not overly shocking that Henrik Lundqvist essentially shrugged his shoulders when he was informed that he was on the verge of 20,000 saves, which would make him the 15th goalie to do so. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports that Lundqvist admits he’s more interested in wins (and you can be certain more interested in a certain large, silver thing you can drink and eat out of.)
“It means a lot to me to be up there with those names,” Lundqvist said. “The amount of saves, I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about that number. I’m happy I’ve been able to play a lot of hockey throughout my 12 and a half seasons here. That’s pretty much the only thought I get when I hear 20,000 saves.”
Lundqvist needs four stops to reach that mark, in case you’re counting.
Rosen recently provided perspective that should really cement that Lundqvist isn’t merely accruing volume: “King Henrik” is slated to allow the lowest total of goals of any netminder who’s collected 20,000 saves. Lundqvist comes into tonight’s game with 1,748 goals allowed, while Jacques Plante is the current gold standard in that regarding, giving up 1,960.
Lundqvist notes that he’s happy to have played a lot of hockey, and that brings something else to mind: how remarkable a success story he really is.
It’s easy to forget that the Rangers drafted Lundqvist in the seventh round (205th overall) back in 2000. You don’t hear Lundqvist’s name mentioned all that often when people discuss all-time draft steals, perhaps because goalies are tough to project and possibly also because he took off almost the instant he hit the NHL.
In 2005-06, Lundqvist managed a sparkling .922 save percentage in 53 games as a rookie, helping the Rangers make the playoffs. He really never looked back, and Hank is really starting to pile up milestones, all while managing a fantastic .920 career save percentage.
Maybe that’s also part of the reason this is such a “meh” thing for Lundqvist: he’s probably getting bored when it comes to setting high marks.
Two other interesting goalie milestones
While Lundqvist has been the model for consistent brilliance for more than a decade, two other veteran goalies are reaching or have reached fairly significant milestones, even as their careers have been far more turbulent.
In each case, we’re talking about 300 career wins.
Carolina Hurricanes stalwart Cam Ward already accomplished that task, as his team’s 3-2 shootout win against the Vegas Golden Knights marked his 300th W.
It’s been an odd career for Ward, who started off hot as the 25th pick of the 2002 NHL Draft. As you almost certainly remember, Ward won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a rookie, taking over for the Hurricanes mid-playoff-run (after a weak regular season for Ward) and helping them to a shocking Stanley Cup. How bizarre is it to realize that both Ward and Lundqvist would diverge after sensational starts to their NHL careers? Considering where they were drafted, many probably would have tabbed Ward to be the guy with great year-in, year-out numbers, yet he’s instead floundered, sitting with backup-like career save percentage of .909.
Still, he has that championship ring, so there’s at least one area where he’d draw Lundqvist’s envy.
The third goalie of note was taken before Ward in the 2002 NHL Draft, as Kari Lehtonen‘s walked an odd path since going second overall that year.
There were flashes of genius during his early days, yet injuries and inconsistency marred his Atlanta Thrashers run with disappointment. His time with the Dallas Stars has been mixed, as he’s gone from a goalie who often carried an over-matched team to a netminder who, along with Antti Niemi, often held the Stars back.
(Many will, fairly, point out that Lehtonen’s play dipped noticeably after concussion issues, opening another “what if?” door for the occasionally star-crossed goalie.)
Either way, he aims for win 300 of his own tonight, as he’s getting back-to-back games as the Stars face the Islanders.
As an aside, one might find it interesting that Kari Lehtonen currently boasts the same average save percentage of .912 between his Stars and Thrashers years. Maybe he’s just been secretly consistent?
Ultimately, this could be quite the week for goalie milestones, even if certain marks might be met with a shrug by the netminders in question.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.