The Rangers are 6-0 since Henrik Lundqvist started wearing his latest mask, the Ragnarok SupraChrome Edition, a shiny, blue metallic design with a silver cage.
Lundqvist swears he's not superstitious, but smiled and said after Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Oilers that “I’d rather not say too much about it, don’t want to jinx it.” The veteran netminder then crossed his fingers.
The mask is the work of Swedish airbrush artist David Gunnarsson, who still works from a converted barn that his grandfather built in the 1930’s in Småland, a province in southern Sweden, and where IKEA was founded.
Gunnarsson, the official painter of equipment manufacturer Bauer, is so popular that half the netminders in the league are displaying his work, including Pekka Rinne, Carey Price, Ben Bishop and Braden Holtby.
Most of Gunnarsson designs are themed, and he works with the goaltenders via phone and e-mails to plot the designs and colors. Antti Raanta, now with Arizona Coyotes, for instance, had one with images of Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Esa Tikkanen and broadcaster Sam Rosen called Passion of the Blueshirts, which Gunnarsson painted with a regular brush, in old-school style and no 3D effects. Current Rangers backup Ondrej Pavelec had Gunnarsson paint a mask to pay tribute to Bruce Springsteen when Pavelec was with the Winnipeg Jets.
The first goalie to use a mask of Dave’s design? Jonas Hedberg, who came to the Penguins from the Manitoba Moose in 2001. The mask featured, you guessed it, a moose.
Lundqvist changes masks about three times a year and offers them at auction for his charity foundation. But to be fair, the gear isn’t the reason for Lundqvist’s recent play. He is sharper than the beginning of the season, when he allowed what seemed like soft goals early in games and late in some periods, and especially since Pavelec subbed for him on Oct. 26 and 28 against Arizona and Montreal.
Speaking of his 27-save performance on Saturday, in which he stopped 16 fo 17 shots in the second and third periods, Lundqvist made a stunning save through traffic on Oscar Klefbom with less than 25 seconds to play.
“I saw that one, but there was one blocker save at the end that I kind of saw. It came fast and I wasn’t sure if I stopped it or not, or if I got a piece of it on the blocker,” he said. “Overall it was a pretty solid game for me. I felt like I just had to be basic and the guys took care of the rest the way they were battling in front and clearing rebounds. If you can be in the right place — Connor McDavid had a play there where he went around me and threw it to the middle and we had guys in the house to protect the front of the net. That’s a big difference right now.’’
Or is it the mask?