During his 15-seasons with the New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist was among the National Hockey League's most dominating goalies.  But, is he the best to have defended the crease among the Metropolitan teams?

Although he last saw action on NHL ice five seasons back, most Rangers' fans still talk about Lundqvist as if it were only yesterday that he was working a home game at Madison Square Garden. "King Henrik" is what his legion of admirers referred to him while wearing the number 30 on his game sweaters. Heck, Lundqvist's number was retired on January 28, 2022.

Now, to be fair, from my own personal observations over the decades that I've watched NHL hockey from New York City, the sports media hasn't been fair with their coverage to teams not named Rangers.  Scores and or highlights of New Jersey Devils or New York Islanders games, at times, appear to be rushed, mocked, or forgotten.

Why? How successful has the Manhattan home team been in the past half century?  If winning the Stanley Cup is the measuring stick, then the answer is rather simple - they haven't.

The last time a Rangers team stood atop the NHL as spring disappeared into summer, you have to go back to the 1993-1994 season. Before that, think about the 1939-1940 NHL season. When "King Henrik" was on skates in New York, no Cups were won.

This isn't to say the Swede wasn't talented. He most certainly was. But, the best goalie in the Tri-State area in Downstate New York, well, the numbers aren't favoring him.  In fact, without one of those deep analytic dives some just drool  over, Lundqvist comes in third place.

NY Rangers Goalie And TAG Heuer Brand Ambassador, Henrik Lundqvist, Celebrates The Opening Of The New Fifth Avenue Flagship Boutique
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: NY Rangers Goalie And TAG Heuer Brand Ambassador, Henrik Lundqvist, Celebrates The Opening Of The New Fifth Avenue Flagship Boutique on April 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for TAG Heuer)

So, "King Henrik" led the Rangers to a Cup Finals in 2014. However, New York lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. Among his many all-star accomplishments collected on skates at MSG, Lundquvist recorded 11 30-win seasons, in his first dozen seasons with the Rangers.   Drafted by New York in 2000, in the seventh-round, when Lundqvist skated off the ice for the last time in 2020, he amassed a 459-310 win-loss record.  This puts him sixth on the all-time NHL wins list.

The Rangers goalie did win in 2012 the Vezina Trophy, an award NHL general managers vote for the top goaltender of the season.

Compare Lundqvist's winning to that of former New York Islanders' goalie Billy Smith.

With Smith in net, all the Islanders did was win four Stanley Cup championships - in a row!  From 1980 - 1983, the best NHL organization was based on Long Island. And, to reinforce just what a powerhouse the Islanders were with Smith leading the pack, the team went to the Cup Finals a fifth-year in a row, in 1984, only to lose out to the Edmonton Oilers.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
UNIONDALE, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Former New York Islander Billy Smith is honored prior to the New York Islanders game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on November 22, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Like Lundqvist, Smith won a Vezina Trophy, but also a Conn Smyth Trophy in 1983, awarded to the most valuable player of his team during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's see, what other NHL recognition Mr. Smith harvested during his 17-seasons defending home ice at the Nassau Coliseum.  Well, although there is no trophy gained, however, Smith experienced the next best thing when registering a victory.  In Game 1, of the 1983 Cup Finals, the Islanders shutout the Oilers (who would be swept in four games) 2-0.  Future hall of famers Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey didn't score a single goal on Smith.

Smith tallied a winning record for 19 consecutive playoff series, from 1980-1984.

In 1978, Smith was selected the MVP of the NHL All-Star Game. Finishing his playing days with a record of 305-233, in 2017 Smith was selected as one of the 100 greatest NHL players in the history of the league.

Tons of NHL hardware scooped up by Smith, and remember, he took his team to five consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.  Count'em - five!

If you combine the heart of Lundqvist and the winnings of Smith, you probably would get former New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

Without question, Brodeur is the best goalkeeper to have played for a New York-New Jersey based team (16 miles is the distance between Manhattan and the Devils' home base in Newark, New Jersey).

Numbers don't lie.

2018 Hockey Hall Of Fame Induction - Legends Classic
TORONTO, ONTARIO - NOVEMBER 11: Martin Brodeur #30 of Team Belfour prepares to play against Team Fuhr during the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic Game at the Scotiabank Place on November 11, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Brodeur took the Devils to five Cup Finals, winning three.  He was selected as the Calder Cup Trophy winner (NHL rookie of the year). Four times Martin was voted the Vezina Trophy.  Is is number one on the all-time wins list for goalies in the NHL - retiring with a record of 691-397.

And, lest we not forget, as Brodeur was dominating, year-in and year-out, he won the William M. Jennings Trophy 5 times, awarded to goalies that skated in at least 25 games in a season, and allowed the fewest goals scored against them.

Brodeur statue. Photo courtesy of Don Laible / TSM
Brodeur statue. Photo courtesy of Don Laible / TSM

For 21 seasons dressing for the Devils, with each game, Brodeur solidified himself as the benchmark of what a successful NHL goalie is. Lundqvist was good, Smith was great, but Brodeur was magnificent.  He is Gotham's best to have ever worn goalie gear.

Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com. 

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