The final three seasons of Dominik Hasek's NHL career were the first three of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. During the time when Hasek was putting a bow on his Hockey Hall of Fame career, when he won 389 NHL games and the Stanley Cup twice with the Detroit Red Wings, he remembered Lundqvist as a goalie whose game was balanced and consistent as early as his rookie season of 2005-06, when Lundqvist won 30 games and finished third in Vezina Trophy voting.
"There were a lot of outstanding goalies from Europe in the NHL, goalies who had one or two fantastic seasons but the next year it was not that good anymore," Hasek told NHL.com/cs writer Michael Langr. "But Henrik has shown great results and performance in the constant basis throughout the entire course of his career. If I look back at that, no other goaltender from Europe in the NHL can compare to him. From this point of view, he's been the best of all European goalies."
That's high praise from Hasek, a native of Pardubice, Czech Republic, and 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. One of the League's most successful goalies of the 1990s and 2000s, "The Dominator" won the Hart Trophy in consecutive seasons (1996-97, 1997-98) and the Vezina Trophy six times. He also helped the Czech Republic win its only gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and became the first Europe-born starting goalie to win the Cup in 2002.
Lundqvist got win No. 389 in his 709th NHL game, compared to Hasek's 735. However, Lundqvist has 55 shootout wins; Hasek has six, having played the first 595 games of his NHL career before the shootout was adopted for the 2005-06 season.
"Hats off for Henrik for how quickly he managed to reach such a number," Hasek said. "The truth is that new rules have helped him a bit with no more ties and with shootouts where you have the average of 50 percent of OT games end with your win. This can bring you about five to eight extra wins per season. But even with that, (389 wins) in just 705 games is a really great number."
You play because of wins. That's what makes this statistics so important. Sure, just the number of wins is not a testimony of the goalie's performance. If you are not lucky enough and you'll end up in a weaker team, obviously the wins will come up slower. But myself and Henrik, we both got lucky to play on teams that had been quite good."
Like Hasek, Lundqvist has plenty of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hasek competed in the postseason 13 times with the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Red Wings. Lundqvist has 10 playoff appearances, helped the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, and is making another push to win an elusive championship
"It's special to me," Lundqvist said Sunday of Hasek's record. "He's a player that's been a lot of inspiration for me growing up. I had posters of him on the wall. I remember watching him, highlights, how he played. He was the first guy I saw play paddle down. I didn't grow up with that style. It was something I watched. I went to practice and said, 'I'm going to try that because I saw Dominik do it.'
"To be up there with him now, it's special for sure. I think he's up there with some of the best, with [Martin] Brodeur and [Patrick] Roy and him. The way they could dominate the game was fun to watch."