Henrik Lundqvist is excited again. After two years of missing the playoffs, the face of the Rangers has a sparkle in his eyes that wasn’t there a year ago. It’s a reflection of the general optimism that has been around the locker room this entire training camp, a feeling that the worst part of the rebuilding stage is over now, and the team is on the rise now.
“You look at the guys came in here – (Jacob) Trouba, and (Adam) Fox. And (Artemi) Panarin,’’ Lundqvist said at Thursday’s morning skate, before he and the Rangers played the Philadelphia Flyers at the Garden. “Some guys that really are going to help this group, for sure. And the young guys last year, they're a year older, and I think have a better understanding. And when you start adding all these pieces, yeah, I definitely believe that we're going to be a better team this year.’’
Rangers coach David Quinn has noticed the difference in Lundqvist’s demeanor this year, as compared to last.
“He's much more at ease with where we're at, you know, as we're moving forward -- not still in the teardown stage, like we were last year,’’ Quinn said. “I think it's a much better place mentally; and it's a process for guys like him and Staalsie (defenseman Marc Staal), guys who have been here a long time, to go through we've gone through. Both those guys certainly are re-energized and feel good about where we're at the direction we're going because we're moving forward.’’
Both Staal and Lundqvist were in the lineup Thursday against the Flyers. Staal was playing for the first time this season with his defense partner from late last season, Tony DeAngelo, and Lundqvist, who blanked the Islanders for half of Tuesday’s game (stopping all 13 shots he faced) played the entire game in what would be his dress rehearsal for the regular season opener next Thursday. He made 32 saves in the game, including four in the three-on-three overtime, and stopped all three Flyers shots in the tiebreaker.
“It was a good test,’’ said Lundqvist, who might have been the only guy in the building who was hoping for overtime and a shootout. “It was perfect to get a little extra action as well, in a preseason game. We covered everything, so it was great.’’
Lundqvist said personally, his game is in a good place, though there are still things he is working on and will be looking to tighten up over the last week of practice before the season starts. But he is pleased with the fact he’s made a few small adjustments in his technique, he said, and they seem to be paying off.
“I made some changes to help my overall game,’’ he said. “I’m not going to tell you what, but me and Benny [Allaire, the goaltending coach] were talking about it for a couple weeks, working on it. I don’t think you could really see it, but I feel it. I feel a difference, and that’s important.’’
Notes & quotes: Mika Zibanejad, the third and final shooter, scored the only goal in the shootout. Tony DeAngelo and Kaapo Kakko missed for the Rangers… Lias Andersson scored the only regulation goal for the Rangers, and Travis Konecny scored for the Flyers… D Tarmo Reunanen was recalled from AHL Hartford and practiced with the non-game group in the morning. He is scheduled to play in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Islanders in Bridgeport… RW Danny O’Regan was assigned to Hartford.