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Often called "Henke" (Swedish for "Hank") or "Lunkan" in reference to his surname by Swedish fans, his dominating play during his rookie season resulted in the New York media and Rangers fans giving him the nicknames "King Henrik" and "The Beast."
Born in Åre, Sweden, Lundqvist began his professional hockey career at the age of 18 with Swedish Elitserien League team Frölunda HC (then known as Västra Frölunda). In 180 appearances with Frölunda he compiled a 1.96 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, leading them to four consecutive playoff appearances and winning two titles, in 2003 and 2005.
During the 2005 season, he broke four Swedish national records: lowest goals against average (1.05), best save percentage (.962), longest time without allowing a goal (172 min 29 sec) and most shutouts in a season (6). He was also named Best Goaltender, Best Swedish Player and was selected as the league's MVP by fellow players.
Drafted by the Rangers with the 205th selection in the 7th round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Lundqvist was considered by many to be the best goaltending prospect to come out of Sweden, and got a chance to prove it in his rookie season.
A Ranger fan favorite, Lundqvist posted his first career NHL win against the New Jersey Devils on October 13 2005, and his first career shutout on October 17 2005 against the Florida Panthers. He was named Defensive Player of the Week twice (October 23–30, 2005 and January 16–22, 2006). Rangers starting goalie Kevin Weekes was injured in the beginning of the season and Lundqvist stepped in admirably, winning the fans over with his play.
On January 22 2006, Lundqvist became the first Rangers goalie since Mike Richter to record 20 wins in his rookie season in a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Then on March 29 2006, he became the leader in victories by a New York Rangers rookie goaltender with his 30th win over their traditional rivals, the New York Islanders.
Lundqvist was a finalist for the 2005-2006 Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL's best goaltender. Despite a 30 win season in his rookie year, he was not a finalist for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the rookie of the year, though this was due to a high crop of first-year players, including Alexander Ovechkin, Dion Phaneuf, and Sidney Crosby. He won the 2005-06 MetLife/Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, a New York Rangers team award.
He came off the NHL Awards 2006 ranked third for best goalkeeper and appointed to the All Rookie Team.
Lundqvist finished the season with a record of 30-12-9, with a 2.24 goals against average (5th in league) and a .922 save percentage (4th in league). The Rangers finished 3rd in the Atlantic division and 6th in the Eastern Conference.
2006 Winter Olympics
As starting goaltender for the Swedish national men's hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Lundqvist led the team to a gold medal over their archrival, Finland. With only 30 seconds left in the final, Lundquist did a fantastic and almost impossible save and brought home the gold for Sweden. In six Olympic starts, Lundqvist went 5-1, allowing only 12 goals.