Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 03/14/07 at 05:27 PM ET
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist participated in an NHL tele-conference today…
Q. I wanted to ask you, in the beginning of the season and now you seem like a different player, a turnaround in your game. I wonder, is anything different for you personally
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: Well, coming back from the summer, I mean a lot of expectations and you try to play well at the start. I think as a team we didn’t play as solid as we do right now. With me, I was a little up and down. I played well, but I made too many mistakes at the start. After the first month, I think I improved my game. It’s been going okay. After Christmas, I think I stepped up a little bit more. It’s just about cutting down your mistakes, I think. The game has been there, I think, but mistakes here and there. But lately it has started to feel much better.
Q. You made it look so easy getting into the playoffs last year. But this year seems like a battle for you guys. What do you think about being in such a tight race this time around?
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: I mean, it’s a learning experience, for sure, and it’s a lot of fun, too. Every game means a lot. It feels like you’re already in the playoffs, actually; every game is huge and it’s intense. When you look back at the record here from maybe from the All-Star break, we haven’t won as many games as we wanted to, but we definitely played a better game and a more disciplined game than we did before Christmas, just some tough breaks here and there, but I still think we’ve been playing okay.
Q. I’m wondering if you find yourself looking up at the out-of-town scoreboard. Like Evan said, you guys were not in a race last year. You cruised into the playoffs, and now every single night the standings are changing for the last two playoff spots. Do you catch yourself looking during breaks and play what’s going on on the score board?
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: Yes, every once in a while you look at it. It feels like you’re already in the playoff series. Every game means a lot. It’s fun to play, too. It’s an intense game right now. Last year was a little bit different. We felt like we were ready for the playoffs early and we kind of got our game down a little bit in the end there. But this year we’ve been in the hunt for the last two months to get back into the race and we’re right there right now. We’re just a couple of points behind. It’s going to be a very interesting couple of weeks to see what’s going to happen.
Q. What’s the difference from last year, Henrik? I don’t get to watch all your games here in Toronto, but why has this year been a little more difficult in terms of trying to get in? Last year, from start to finish, it seems like the team was more consistent and it wasn’t as difficult in terms of winning games.
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. But if you look, especially after Christmas and after the break, we’ve been playing much more disciplined hockey, but we haven’t been scoring that much. Goals against have been under two goals but we’re still around 500. I mean, a lot of games we had the lead, and we don’t really—somehow we haven’t found the way to win tight games.
In the end it’s going to be a big difference, but I still think we’ve been playing well, especially the last few weeks we have started to win more. But when you look back at the year there’s been too many games where we let it slip away. Hopefully it’s not going to cost us too much.
Q. When you were growing up, how prevalent was the Stanley Cup back home? And I’m wondering if your opinion of the trophy changed at all being in the league last year for the first time?
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: I think it changed a little bit, yes. You get more aware of what it’s all about, winning the Stanley Cup and what it takes. Growing up, you couldn’t watch much NHL on TV. You didn’t have satellite TV. It was more Swedish games on TV. But when I turned maybe 17, 18, I started watching more NHL. And when you get drafted you want to watch more to learn more. It definitely changed a little bit last year, I think, when you get more aware of what it’s all about, like I said, and what it takes.
It’s a long year. I mean, it’s really hard to make the playoffs. There are a lot of good teams that will miss the playoffs. It’s a long run to make it to the playoffs. And then from there it’s like a new season. New teams show up with great resolve in the playoffs, like last year with Edmonton. It’s a great challenge to make the playoffs and then go all the way, especially here in New York, you really understand how big it was, ‘94, now when you’re here in the locker rooms and you see all the pictures and talk to people that was here. That is definitely something you want to try to experience during your career here.
Q. Then in terms of every game being so important, do you find yourself ever going back to your Olympic experience and the similarities there and every game there being so important as well?
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: No, I don’t really think about the Olympics. That’s more in the past. I mean, I played a lot of playoffs back in Sweden. Like I said earlier, it feels like you’re in the playoffs right now. You just try to get ready for each game as it would be the last one. You put everything you have out there and try to get the win. At the same time, it takes a lot from you, but it’s fun. It’s a fun time of the year where you can feel the difference on the ice and off the ice, in the buildings. The crowds are more into it. Hopefully we’ll make it here. Like I said, it’s fun to play when there’s a little bit more pressure and the points are huge.
Q. First loss in regulation for your team since February 24th, and especially coming off that high after the win with Carolina on Sunday. What’s the mood like right now with your team, given that you’re up 2-0 last night, only to lose 3-2 to Ottawa. Are you hoping it’s not one of those defeats that will linger?
HENRIK LUNDQVIST: There’s been a lot of talk about us not getting the wins when we had the 2-0 lead. You know the game will not stay the same for three periods. We had a good first. They came back strong in the second. It felt good in the third. But then they had a lucky bounce on Malik’s stick and that was the game-winning goal.
I don’t really think that we put too much energy on that we lost the game, but we still had the 2-0 lead. We just tried to—what should I say? We tried to play our best. Right now we’re just getting ready for Friday. We don’t try to focus too much on what happened last night. I still think we feel confident. We feel like it’s a mission that’s possible to make the playoffs. It’s going to be a tight race to the end. It’s going to be very interesting.
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