Do you want to cry? This picture of Henrik Lundqvist might do the trick
Full disclosure: I’m a diehard New York Rangers fan. Like many diehard New York Rangers fans, I thoroughly enjoyed all the Twitter-sh*t-talking at the Carolina Hurricanes expense back in March, when it sure sounded like the Canes were little scaredy cats when they found out they’d be playing the red-hot Rangers in the COVID playoff format. Like many Ranger fans, I was already looking ahead to Round 2.
My oh my, did the tables turn in a matter of four days. Not only did the Canes sweep the Rangers in three games, they made them look like one of those mites teams that plays at intermission at MSG. The Rangers exited the NHL bubble faster than a Shea Weber slap shot.
To add insult to injury, Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers goalie for all of my adult life and the end of my childhood/beginning of my teenage years, was benched after two uninspiring starts. The thing is, neither loss was Henrik’s fault. It was very reminiscent of the Rangers playoff teams of the late 2000s and early 2010s - the defense completely failing King Henrik as he stands on his head, and the offense going completely cold. Same story, different year.
But, as always, sports have a way of souring the ending of a legendary career (I've already suffered through Eli Manning's ending this year. When is enough enough?). That’s exactly what happened to Henrik on Tuesday night, as he watched the Rangers get eliminated from the bench, looking as beautiful as ever. But not even his exquisite hair, perfect beard and dreamy blue eyes could hide the pain:
Goodness. Saddest picture of all time might be an understatement. After 15 years, 871 starts, 130 playoff starts, many of which Lundqvist literally had to fend off pucks like he was being fired at with an AK-47, the King was reduced to a depressing bench shot as his replacement, young Russian tender Igor Shesterkin, got the call. Igor played well, but no goalie, not Henrik, not Marty Brodeur and not freakin’ Dominik Hasek could overcome Rangers defenseman Tony Deangelo getting absolutely undressed by Sebastian Aho:
To be honest, I’m kinda glad Henrik didn’t have to suffer another elimination loss where his defense completely folded in front of him. Going out with his hair perfectly coiffed might have been for the best.
Where do we go from here? Well, he still has one year left on his seven-year deal, but with Shesterkin showing so much promise, as well as another young Russian Alexander Georgiev showing promise, there might be no room on the roster for the Cup-less King. Will the Rangers buy him out? Will he end up in a damn Dallas Stars or Colorado Avs or Arizona Coyotes or some other jersey that isn’t blue and white and will ultimately make me throw up in my mouth? We’re going to find out. The only proper way for his career to end is for the Rangers to hang on for one more year, make one more run at the Cup with an extremely young roster that’s not ready to win one, and hope by some miracle Lundqvist still has some life left to help them get there. I give the chances of that happening less than five percent, and now I’m crying again.