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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How Far Can Goalie Take Rangers?



When a hockey fan in New York is asked how far the Rangers will go in any given season, there has always been a stock answer:

''As far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them.''

In the first couple of years Roberto Luongo was in Vancouver the same could have been said about the Canucks.

But now that's not necessarily the case and, curiously enough, that's the way Lundqvist feels about this surprising edition of the Blueshirts.

"The thing I'd say about our team is that we can beat anybody and anybody can beat us. It all depends upon how focused we are on any given night," says the '06 Olympic gold medal-winning goaltender for Sweden.

"We've got four good lines, a good D and, some nights, we've played very, very well. This can be a good team if we keep improving. We have a very nice mix. It's a matter of how high our level of focus is. Intensity, that's what's important."

Lundqvist is enjoying another solid season with 18 wins -- a league-leading 12 on the road -- a 2.33 goals against average, five shutouts and his assists, one more than Aaron Rome.

But the Swede wouldn't go so far to say it's the best Rangers team he's played on:

"When we had Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander, that was a different mix, a different level. That was a while back, a different era."

President/GM Glen Sather and coach John Tortorella have dialed back Lundqvist's workload this year, and some would say it's for the same reason Vancouver is trying to do the same with Luongo.

For starters, Martin Biron has been very good in the backup role with numbers somewhat similar to Lundqvist. After his 73 games last season, the Rangers missed the playoffs on the last day, which always seems a catalyst for change in an organization.

At this rate he'll be around 64 games, his lowest since his rookie year of '05-'06. But his play hasn't taken a hit. And he, unlike Luongo, was named to this year's All-Star Game.

Lundqvist looks forward to seeing the Sedin twins and Mikael Samuelsson, Olympic gold teammates, at MSG on Thursday. Just not on the ice.

''They are terrific people but they're a really tough team to play against. I know we'll be looking at a lot of tape with them being as good on the power play as they are. But it's nice to play some of those teams out west. I'd like to play more of them.

"It would be nice if you played every team in the league twice in a season, once there and once at home. It would mean more travel, but ... would create interest."

Having played as well as he has in New York for so long, he has become quite the celebrity.

"I get a nice mix of it because this is New York,'' he says.

''If I'm around the rink before or after the game I'm recognized and people say hello. But then I can go home and kind of disappear in places where, really, nobody knows what you do.

"And because it's New York and there are lots of well-known people in the city, the people are pretty good. They move along because there's somebody famous around the corner."

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Thanks to reader Steffi for the article

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