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Friday, February 5, 2010

Henrik Lundqvist featured Olympic athlete on (2010)

Henrik Lundqvist - Sweden

About Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist burst onto the hockey scene as an National Hockey League rookie in 2005-6, grabbing the job as the starting goaltender for the New York Rangers and backstopping Sweden to a gold medal in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

It was a whirlwind start for Lundqvist, 27, who went on to be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the N.H.L.’s top goaltender after each of his first three seasons and has become a full-fledged star in New York as well as in Sweden. Fans call him King Henrik, and he is frequently serenaded in Madison Square Garden with a charming chant of “Hen-reek, Hen-reek.” In 2008, the Rangers signed him to a six-year, $41.25 million contract.

“Players in front of him know if there’s a breakdown, he’s our last line of defense and he’s always there for us,’’ said defenseman Paul Mara, a Rangers teammate from 2007 to 2009. “He’s done it so many times. It helps you be confident just having him back there.”

Lundqvist, who grew up in Are, Sweden, was largely unknown in North America when the Rangers selected him in the seventh round of the 2000 draft. His identical twin brother, Joel, a forward who ended up playing three seasons in the N.H.L. before returning to Sweden, was chosen by Dallas in the third round of that draft. Henrik Lundqvist joined the Rangers in 2005, expecting to be a backup to starter Kevin Weekes.

When Weekes struggled, Lundqvist grabbed his opportunity. He was a sensation, winning 30 of his 53 games that season, and got another boost with his performance in the Olympics.

“It’s been amazing,” Lundqvist said during the 2006 Games. “All my dreams are coming true at once. But looking back, I think the key to this was going to New York and getting a really good start.”

Lundqvist’s strengths are his quickness and athleticism, as well as his excellent positioning. He plays deep in his crease, relying on his quick reflexes to react to shots.

“I think the recovery save is his best,” said Benoit Allaire, the Rangers’ goalie coach. “He’s one of the fastest guys around the league to recover, to go across on his knees. You think he won’t be there, but he will get there.”

Lundqvist is quick to heap praise on Allaire, one of the early teachers of the butterfly style, for his success.

Lundqvist’s biggest fans have been his Rangers teammates.

“I think the biggest thing about him is his competitiveness — not just wanting to win, but he stays with the puck even when it appears he may be beaten or completely out of the play,” said Matt Cullen, a Rangers center in 2006-7. “He battles so hard to get back in position. I think that’s probably his best attribute.”

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