Player of the Month
The European Hockey.Net European Player of the Month is awarded to the player with the most oustanding performance over the course of the month
Nominations are collected at the end of each month, then a vote by the site's admin team decides the winner.
April 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
Winning the European Hockey.Net Player of the Month award is tough. Winning it twice is a more than remarkable performance but winning it twice in consecutive months takes something exceptional.
He was the key in Västra Frölunda's playoff winning campaign. He had to swallow four goals in game 1 of the finals against Färjestads BK, but drove the opposition offence to frustration in the next four games. Three shut outs and a single goal against along with a 97,2 save percentage earned Frolunda the gold medals.
The goaltender set no less than four national playoff records:
- Lowest Goals Against Average (1,05/game)
- Best save percentage (96,2%)
- Longest consecutive time without conceding a goal (172min. 29sec)
- Most shut outs (6)
Furthermore Lundqvist was voted on the Swedish Media All-Star team for the third consecutive season. This time his selection was unanimous, a rarity in this all-star selection. It remains to be seen whether his trophy-cabinet is big enough. Lundqvist also won the Best Swedish Player award (Goldpucken) and the Golden Helmet (Guldhjälmen) which indicates the league MVP as selected by the players.
Performances like these don't go unnoticed in New York. Glen Sather, New York Rangers' General Manager sat in the stands when Henrik Lundqvist registered his 2nd shutout in a row in the playoffs. Sather was quoted in Swedish newspaper Sportbladet saying that he believes Henrik Lundqvist is the top goalie prospect in the NY Rangers' organization. With two first round draft picks amongst the competition, Lundqvist must have impressed Sather.
Rangers' European Scout Christer Rockström agrees. "Henrik has had an outstanding, impressive two seasons with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. He has improved a lot over the past few seasons."
Sather is not the only one who has seen Lundqvist's stock rising over the past season. John Sanful has been covering the World Championships for IHWC.net in the last few years. He could see differences between the Henrik Lundqvist from last year and the one who tended the net for Sweden this year and helped them achieve a fourth place.
"Lundqvist seemed capable of carrying his team this year," Sanful says. "He made some key stops for Sweden whereas last year the defence was much stronger and blocked a lot of shots from coming through. He showed poise in close games but was left stranded by his defence early in the bronze medal game."
Sather's and Sanful's words underline Lundqvist's feelings about moving to North America for the 2005-06 season. When eurohockey.net spoke to Lundqvist last month, he told us that he is looking forward to a new challenge, Sanful feels he has got no other option realistically.
Sanful said: "He's proven everything in Sweden and almost everything representing Tre Kronor at the World Championships (except winning gold). It will be an adjustment getting used to the smaller ice surfaces and the various shooters found in the NHL and AHL."
A year in the AHL with the Hartford Wolfpack won't do Lundqvist any harm. This way he can get himself ready for the big job in the city that never sleeps. But also a city that is more than eager to success. The Rangers have missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons despite carrying one of the most expensive rosters in the league.
The hunger to regain foregone glory holds both advantages and disadvantages for Lundqvist. After years of trying to buy a play-off ticket, the Rangers' management have changed course dramatically and are giving more room for young talent.
"I think that with the developments concerning the Rangers over the last few seasons, Lundqvist has an extraordinary opportunity to earn a starting spot," Sanful comments. "And if he can lead the team into the playoffs, it will further chance his reputation. This creates an opportunity for Lundqvist to earn a starting spot in the not too distant future. His competition, if you will, is 2004 first round draft pick Alvaro Montoya from the University of Michigan but, all things considered, Lundqvist is further along and a more polished prospect."
However, despite the sunny forecast, Lundqvist will find himself in an environment where the pressure is as high as in a pressure cooker. There aren't too many second chances in New York and the media will not leave a detail untold. It will be totally different situation than back home in Göteborg, Sweden. The netminder can handle the puck, but can he also handle this extra pressure?
John Sanful is convinced he is the 'real deal'. "Lundqvist has shown himself to be a cool customer in high pressure games in Sweden and at the World Championships and there is every reason to think that he has the "makeup" to handle New York," Sanful says confidently. "His personality off the ice is made for New York. He's got matinee idol looks and the temperament to handle the pressure and media."
The Rangers will be careful with their rough diamond. Three years ago, the organisation put 18-year old Dan Blackburn between the pipes, much to everyone's surprise. The teenager had a terrific start but the switch from junior level to NHL took a lot from him. Perhaps too much as Blackburn had to miss a full season with an extensive nerve damage in his shoulder. The injury is not likely to heal and Blackburn's path to Broadway glory is looking darker than ever before.
The Rangers' management seems to have learned from this if we may believe Head Coach and Vice President of Player Development, Tom Renney's words. "He has a bright future. We want to bring him along properly. The way he has played here (IIHF World Championship) and having had the opportunity to have him (at a Rangers summer prospect camp in 2003) he has given us no reason to think otherwise."
Things look bright for Lundqvist so, and most people are on his hand. The only thing that prevents him from packing his suitcase and jump into a plane is the ongoing saga between the NHLPA and the NHL. Both organisations are yet to come to an agreement that sees the NHL-lock out get to an end.
It's an issue not within Henrik Lundqvist's reach. An odd feeling for the Swede who seemed to have everything in reach this season.
From the eurohockey.net archive
- March 2007 - Petr Sykora
- February 2007 - Bernd Brückler
- January 2007 - Martin Prochazka
- December 2006 - Martin Kariya
- November 2006 - Pavel Brendl
- October 2006 - Kimmo Rintanen
- September 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- May 2006 - Kenny Jönsson
- April 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- March 2006 - Reto von Arx
- February 2006 - Nicklas Lidström
- January 2006 - Patrick Yetman
- December 2005 - Miroslav Hala
- November 2005 - Vasily Koshechkin
- October 2005 - Tony Salmelainen
- September 2005 - Sergei Zinoviev
- May 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- April 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- March 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- February 2005 - Marian Gaborik
- January 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- December 2004 - Tim Thomas
- November 2004 - Marian Hossa
- October 2004 - Jukka Voutilainen
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