CHICAGO – Now is not the time for Henrik Lundqvist to open up and lose his courage. There could be a time for the always courteous goalkeeper, who will be released from the Rangers network after 15 years not only as a starter but also as the face of the franchise.
With his 38th birthday in less than two weeks, Lundqvist had only two starts since January 6, the day AHL Hartford called Igor Shesterkin to make it a crowded break with Alexandar Georgiev. It looked like Shesterkin would return from a minor ankle injury against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night after Georgiev started the last three games in a row.
So Lundqvist grinds on, shares a network with Georgiev on Wednesday morning and tries not to think about the big picture – or its effects.
"There is a time when we can talk about the experience," Lundqvist told The Post. "But at the moment I just want to focus on working hard, and that's it."
It is clear that this was difficult for Lundqvist, who did not give up his throne so much because of bad play, but was taken over by the two 24-year-old Russians, who both played very well. The thoughtful Swede has plenty of time and time to think.
"It's a challenge sometimes," said Lundqvist. "You think a lot. You're just trying to control what you can control, not rethinking it. If things are the way you want them, think less. You just go out and play. A lot of attempts have been made to analyze the situation, but I try to work hard every day. "
Lundqvist has one year left for his $ 8.5 million contract, and he has a full no-move clause. At some point in the future, the blueshirts might ask if he would like to waive his non-movement to go to a competitor and play this elusive Stanley Cup, or they might decide to buy up the last year of the deal. Neither is an ideal way for him to end his career in the Hall of Fame, which started as a rookie in 2005/06 and took off Kevin Weekes.
It was believed that Georgiev might be the one who traded to make room for Shesterkin – who was long inherited from Lundqvist while dominating the KHL. But it certainly doesn't seem to be a priority to get Georgiev to be a restricted free agent this summer.
It also became clear that Shesterkin is ready for the bright lights as he has won six of his first seven starts, including his first street win last Tuesday in Winnipeg. At that moment, he also suffered a minor ankle injury that didn't stop him from finishing the game, but was sore enough to keep him off the net for a week.
There was also quite a bit of excitement when coach David Quinn said Shesterkin was "just now" the team's # 1 goalkeeper "before Thursday's game in St. Paul, Minnesota. Quinn qualified the statement to highlight the fact that he was talking about the current moment and nothing more, and then mocked the hustle and bustle that the comment caused.
But no goalkeeper other than Lundqvist has been declared the Rangers' best option at any point in the past 15 years. When Lundqvist was healthy, he was always number 1. The rare cases in which he had to skip two or three games in a row for a hot backup were remarkable situations.
What's happening now is more than that. Maybe the team trades with Georgiev before February 24, or maybe they move him over the summer, and then the Shesterkin-Lundqvist duo moves on to the next season.
Or maybe we are approaching Henrik Lundqvist's end as a ranger.
“I just try to work hard every day. That is my goal. And be ready, ”said Lundqvist. "That's it. I don't have more to say at the moment."