GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Henrik Lundqvist might well have another several good seasons left in him. But the Rangers’ star goaltender has reached the point where he often finds a number attached to his name in news accounts and fan chatter.
That number for now is 34, his age, and it only will go up, just as for the rest of us. But Lundqvist said what keeps him going, 11 years and countless stopped pucks after he began, is his hunger to win.
“I think this game is a lot about determination and how much you want it,” he said Tuesday as the Rangers gathered one last time and he was asked if he feels any different than his younger self.
“You talk about age, and I want it as bad as I did 10 years ago, maybe even more, and I think that’s going to be my biggest motivation moving forward, going through training over the summer, preparing for next season.”
The question, of course, is whether the Rangers will have a supporting cast to help him win a Stanley Cup before his career officially is registered in the Patrick Ewing Book of New York Stars Who Fell Just Short.
Lundqvist said he is hopeful, despite all the recent talk of an era having ended.
“I look around this room and you talk about an era, but we have a lot of young players here, skill players, good players, who can play a big part for this club for years,” he said.
He also acknowledged how hard it is to stay at or near the top in the modern NHL, and how “you need to get every piece of the puzzle working at the right time and if you don’t you’re going to be out.”
No pieces worked for the Rangers in their five-game first-round playoff loss to the Penguins, Lundqvist among them. He was removed early from the last two games, during which he allowed 10 goals on 41 shots.
That led some to wonder whether they were witnessing the beginning of the end for King Henrik, the kind of question all aging stars face. Only time will tell if it was a blip or an ominous dip.
How would Lundqvist rate his own season?
“Well, I think I need some more time to think about it,” he said, “but regular season, it was definitely a year with more ups and downs as a group and for a goalie, obviously, that’s sometimes a little more challenging to play at times.
“But you learn from that and you just have to find ways to win games in different ways. But regular season, I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out.”
Lundqvist said he felt “sharp” for the first three games of the playoffs, one of which he left after being poked near his right eye by teammate Marc Staal. “But the last two there were a couple of different reasons we didn’t get it done, or I didn’t get it done,” he said. “So you try to learn from that.”
He said the last month of the season was a challenge for him, both mentally and physically. But he said the eye injury on April 13 had nothing to do with his late-series flop.
“I wish that was the case,” he said. “It would been easy to say that was the reason I didn’t play better in Games 4 and 5, but it’s not. I’ll still spend more time with this and analyze it and try to come up with good answers.”