Henrik Lundqvist knows the legend of Terry Sawchuk. Of course he does. Sawchuk is the goaltender with whom the Swede is now tied for sixth on NHL all-time victory list at 445 following Thursday’s 4-3 Garden victory over the Blackhawks.
But until told recently, Lundqvist had not known that Sawchuk finished his career as a Ranger and gained the final three victories of 20-year career wearing the Blueshirt as Ed Giacomin’s backup in 1969-70, No. 445 coming with a flourish in a Feb. 1, 1970, 6-0 shutout of the Penguins at the Garden in which Dave Balon scored a hat trick.
“I know the great goalies, but I don’t know their history,” Lundqvist told The Post. “Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy were the first NHL goalies I followed.
“It’s an honor to be up there. A very cool feeling. A proud and good feeling. You don’t reflect too much on where you are while you are playing, but we had a great team in New York and I had the opportunity to play a lot. Now our team is in a different position and you realize how different things can be. There’s a lot out of your control.
“But when we had those good runs, I think you appreciate them even more now,” said Lundqvist, nine wins back of Curtis Joseph for fifth on the ladder. “We’re in a new phase now, but when you play almost 14 years, you’re going to be part of a lot of different scenarios.”
Sawchuk created most of his history with the Red Wings, with whom he won three Cups in the fifties before claiming a fourth while sharing nets with Johnny Bower in Toronto in 1967. He came to New York in a trade engineered by general manager Emile Francis.
“I’d always considered him the best goalkeeper ever. I know he had his own problems, but he’s still No. 1 in my books,” Francis told The Post last month, alluding to Sawchuk’s history of depression. “And Eddie had a tough time in his first few playoffs. We had [Gilles] Villemure, but I wanted Sawchuk for experience and insurance.”
Giacomin had gone 2-11 throughout the playoffs in his first three years. When Eddie-Eddie allowed seven goals to the Bruins in the first two periods of Game 1 of the 1970 first round, Sawchuk not only played the third period of the 8-2 defeat, he started Game 2 in Boston, losing 5-3. That marked the final start of Sawchuk’s career, though he did play 17 seconds in relief of Giacomin in Game 5 in which he did not handle a shot.
“I thought he did a good job for us,” Francis said of the netminder who went 3-1-2 with a 2.91 GAA in six regular-season starts. “Hell yeah.”
Just four months later, Sawchuk died as a result of injuries he had sustained as a result of a scuffle with teammate Ron Stewart at a postseason party at the house they shared on Long Island. Stewart was cleared of wrong-doing and liability by a Nassau County grand jury.
“It was a tragedy beyond understanding, but it was quite a thrill and honor to have him be a part of our team,” Vic Hadfield said. “We still were a pretty young group at that time and to be able to rub shoulders with someone of that magnitude made an impression on all of us.”
Lundqvist, shocked when he learned of the details of Sawchuk’s death, has won two straight after enduring a stretch in which he had won only three of his previous 11 starts while being pulled in consecutive starts the first week of this month.
“I thought I’d played well for three months and then had a couple of bad games,” Lundqvist told The Post. “So was it a slump or a couple of bad games? It was important not to overreact, so I worked on a few details of my game. It was a little bit of a reset.”
Lundqvist has won at least 35 games in seven different seasons. But that was when the Rangers were riding high. This is not that. He knows this is not that. And he accepts it. He works at that, too.
“I want to get into the playoffs and in order to do my best for this team, I have to stay strong mentally and not allow outside influences to affect me,” he said. “Of course there’s a different feeling, it’s been that way since last year when we started to make these changes. I deal with that all the time, but my job is to focus on what I can control, and that’s the way I play.
“It’s a test. It’s hard, yes, but that’s the challenge.”
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