Jeff Jacobs: Harvey Could Learn From Lundqvist

In the hours before the last game of this Rangers season, Alain Vigneault did not think twice about expressing his team's most urgent need.

"We need Hank to be Hank," the Rangers coach said.

Vigneault didn't worry about piling weight on Henrik Lundqvist's shoulders. This was a goalie accustomed to New York pressure, accustomed to standing at one end of the Madison Square Garden madhouse and staring elimination in the eye.

So many times Lundqvist had not blinked.

Since 2008 in games when the Rangers faced elimination at the Garden, Lundqvist was 10-1 with a 1.05 goals against average and .965 save percentage. He had allowed one or fewer goal in nine of the 11 games. Overall, he had been 15-5 in elimination games since 2012.

On a May night when his good friend Matt Harvey sat in front of reporters at Citi Field, contrite and embarrassed for missing a Mets game over the weekend, Lundqvist set out to do what he needed to do. Hank had to be Hank.

The hard truth is Lundqvist was outplayed by Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson in the Senators' 4-2 victory that ended this second-round NHL playoff series in six games. Lundqvist was OK in allowing three goals. Anderson was terrific with 37 saves.

The bigger truth is the Senators came out more inspired, more desperate and played as if they were the team facing elimination. They grabbed a 2-0 lead in a first period, where they killed off three penalties. Defenseman Erik Karlsson played brilliantly on both ends of the ice.

"Right now all you feel is disappointment," Lundqvist said. "It's a numb feeling."

Spring after spring, long series after long series, the Rangers have played more playoff games than any other NHL team since 2012. They also don't have a Stanley Cup to show for their work, and now the question is what becomes of the core of this team?

To stand around Lundqvist's locker is to listen to a man who speaks often about focus and always being prepared to play. Alternate captain Derek Stepan had talked about how Lundqvist always has "his Hank on."

Whether it's Game 4 of the regular season or in Game 6 against Ottawa, Stepan had said, Lundqvist does the same thing every single game. His focus and discipline is total. He always has "Hank going," Stepan said.

And that's what we must wonder most about Harvey today. Will Matt have his Matt going? Can he keep his focus and discipline from now on?

There was a time when Harvey took the mound and it was must-see television. He had a fastball that approached 100 mph and a wicked slider. As the strikeouts and the hype grew, so did the early comparisons. He was going to be the next Tom Seaver.

He played the part, too. Harvey embraced the big city. He embraced his nickname of the Dark Knight. He liked the beautiful models, and the beautiful models liked him. He was seen often at Manhattan's trendy clubs. In his second year in the majors, he didn't mind pulling off his clothes and baring his butt for the 2013 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue.

He called Derek Jeter "the model." Yet there was something different about Jeter and him. Jeter established himself as a star before he acted like one. Jeter also was ultra-careful, ultra-responsible. With what certainly appears to be a recurring pattern of a lack of responsibility, the question now is what becomes of Matt Harvey?

He started the 2013 All-Star Game for the National League at Citi Field, the first Met since Doc Gooden. He battled like crazy to pitch two shutout innings. The place was electric. New York was his.

This was before he tore his elbow ligament, losing the entire 2014 season with Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2015, and there was the constant scrutiny of maximum innings. That situation got muddled and kind of nasty, involving his agent Scott Boras. Harvey wiggled through it, and there he was in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. For eight innings he had been brilliant, again Citi Field was electric, again New York was his.

He wanted that ball for that ninth inning. Pitching coach Dan Warthen told him he was done for the night, and Harvey screamed, "No way!" Harvey went to manager Terry Collins and convinced him to let him go back out. It turned out badly, but Mets fans admired his competitive rage, if not his demise.

"He's excited, and I'm very happy for him with the way he's been able to stay focused through all of this," Lundqvist had said in October 2015 after Harvey had come to watch the Rangers between the NLCS and World Series.

Had he?

A month earlier, he had missed a mandatory pre-playoff workout. He had been out late the night before. He apologized. Said it wouldn't happen again.

It happened again. There Harvey was Tuesday at Citi Field apologizing to his teammates and his coaches in a clubhouse meeting. He emerged for a press conference and apologized to everyone from the Wilpon family down to the fans.

"I'm extremely embarrassed by my actions," Harvey said.

Scheduled to start on Sunday, Harvey didn't show up for the game on Saturday. He told the Mets he was suffering from a migraine. According to various reports, the Mets sent team personnel to his Manhattan apartment on Saturday night. When he showed Sunday at the ballpark, he was informed he had been suspended for three days without pay. That costs him approximately $84,000 of his $5.1 million salary.

"I was out on Friday night, past curfew," Harvey said in the press conference. "I did play golf Saturday morning and I put myself in a bad place to be ready to show up for a ballgame. It is my responsibility, and I take full blame for that.

"I will do everything in my power that it never happens again."

There had been reports that Harvey was filing a grievance over his suspension with the MLB Players Association. And while he said he had not done so, in the midst of all his apologizing, Harvey did not rule it out.

"Filing anything I have not done," Harvey, 2-2, with a 5.14 ERA, said. "Whether that happens down the road, it's not on my mind."

If he files that grievance, he will lose any goodwill he regained Tuesday. His apology will be a joke.

Harvey needs to be less Manhattan and more Connecticut from this moment on. The kid from Fitch High in Groton needs to be less Gotham and more Nutmeg.

When you're young and brash and you can blow people away, it's easy to believe the world is at your doorstep. Maybe Harvey got entitled. Maybe the Mets enabled him. He will be a free agent after the 2018 season and visions of an all-time payday are dimmed now. With two serious surgeries behind him, including one for thoracic outlet syndrome last year, maybe Harvey can't be great anymore.

If he remains healthy, he can still be good. Is he willing to swallow some ego, work like crazy at his craft and be focused day after day for the rest of his career? We'll see starting Friday in his next start at Milwaukee.

"People make mistakes, and I made another mistake," Harvey said. "There are things I have realized the last couple days I need to be doing or not be doing. One of those things I should be doing is putting myself in a better place to perform physically and be accountable for my work."

Lundqvist, 35, had an up-and-down season. He had an up-and-down series. He also wasn't the reason the Rangers lost Game 6. Mike Hoffman deflected in a Karlsson one-timer in the first period. Lundqvist did get beat short-side by Mark Stone, although Kyle Turris was charging to the net. Karlsson's goal to make it 3-1 also was short-side, but he had only a few inches and found it with a great shot. An empty-net goal after he had been pulled left Lundqvist with the emptiest of feelings.

"You think about how much work and how many hours you put in to get this chance," Lundqvist said. "You start in July, train, prepare. Now, we have to see what we could have done better. We have to learn from it."

Henrik Lundqvist was talking about himself. He could have been giving advice to his friend Matt Harvey.

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