You can argue about who the best goaltender in the NHL is these days but there's not a whole lot of argument about who the best "big-game" goalie is in the league, Henrik Lundqvist has that title on lockdown right now.
Obviously Lundqvist and the Rangers are perfect in games this postseason when facing elimination but going back over the past few postseasons, he has been equally good. His numbers this postseason in elimination games? The King is 5-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and a .971 save percentage.
Those numbers are so good they are hard to fathom. It's not a tremendous sample size but combine it with his past elimination performances and it paints quite the portrait.
What is it about elimination games that elevates Lundqvist's already excellent game another couple of notches? Former Rangers goaltender Mike Richter explained to CBSSports.com that a lot of it is his mental approach.
"I think it's a huge part of mindset," Richter said. "You want to play your best when you need it most. That ability to raise the level of play when you really need it is one of the marks of a champion."
Certainly he looked like a champion in his 41-save performance in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final to avoid the Kings sweep and push the series back to LA for Friday night's Game 5 where again he and the Rangers will look to avoid elimination.
Instead of thinking about how many more games the Rangers will have to win to get the Stanley Cup, the key if Lundqvist wants to help the Rangers push this series back to New York is focusing on nothing more than the next play; not the last play or next game but the next play.
"I think as a goaltender the hard part comes from keeping yourself in the moment," the Rangers' Cup-winning goalie in 1994 said. "All you can control is this moment and that's how you have to approach it. He's great like that. Incredible competitor. It's easy to let your mind slide to the save you just made or what could happen if A, B or C takes place. You're just draining energy away from the outcome. You have to stay motivated and present; he's very good at that."
Richter, who is advocating a new app to help improve the mental strength of athletes called AthleteMinder, see that same kind of approach from the Rangers team as a whole.
"The Rangers are very good about approaching these games that are do or die where a lot of people would be crushing their sticks and trying not to make mistakes," Richter explained. "I think they've learned as a group to approach it almost in the same way. They are very businesslike, knowing what makes them play their best and go with that and not worry about what could go wrong."
Of course Richter noted that the Kings and Jonathan Quick are equally adept at this aspect of the game and preparation, saying it's no coincidence both teams made it this far in the playoffs.
If Lundqvist stands on his head once again with the Rangers' season on the line, that won't be a coincidence either.