Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist saved some time recently to chat with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What special quality do you think this year’s team has that maybe others haven’t had?
A: We’ve been a hard-working team, but what I feel this year is we’re a little bit more consistent. We’re a little bit more mature group, that can handle ups and downs maybe a little bit better.
Q: If teams take on the personality of their coach, what would the personality of this team be?
A: We try to leave everything out there. ... We’re talking about Torts (John Tortorella), he leaves everything out there. He’s very determined ... passionate. And I think being a passionate team, that’s something that goes a long way, to have that fire, and you want to give everything out there.
Q: Is this the most passionate team you’ve played on in New York?
A: Yeah, I think so. ... I mean, it’s hard to say if it’s just being passionate but ... it’s a combination of a lot of things ... being more mature, but being ready to pay the price. ... It’s a combination of a lot of things that I really like about this year.
Q: Is it a hungry team?
A: Yeah. We’ve been in the first round, second round but ... I think we’re hungry for more.
Q: What do you think about the Super Bowl champion Giants?
A: It’s inspiring, no question, to see a New York team have success like that. I’m not gonna lie, I think about it. I think about going all the way, winning it. ... We have pictures there at the practice facility from ’94 and you see all the fans and you see the players. ... I won a few championships back [in Sweden] and the Olympics, and just that feeling of winning and satisfaction of accomplishing something that big ... that’s what drives you.
Q: Can this team do what the Giants did?
A: I believe we can do it, yeah. We’re good enough to win ... but to go all the way ... it’s a long road. You need all 20 guys to play their best. I kinda compare ourselves to Boston, how they play. They play hard. They have four lines going. ... Tim Thomas plays really well in net ... but that’s what it’s gonna take, everybody to play at their absolute best, and then we have a chance.
Q: What’s it like being The King?
A: (Chuckle). Well, I definitely don’t feel like The King, or anything close to it. ... It’s a funny nickname. It started my first years. In the beginning it was weird to have people scream that — like, “Hey King Henrik” — it’s kinda awkward almost (laugh). But now it’s like Year 7, and I kinda got used to it. ... I mean, it could be worse ... but I try not to take it too serious (chuckle).
Q: How do you feel about turning 30 on March 2?
A: I’m right where I want to be. There’s no panic attack that I’m turning 30 (smile).
Q: How would you sum up what it’s been like being goaltender for the New York Rangers?
A: It’s been a great challenge and a fun ride. Playing in New York, especially when you do well, it’s an incredible feeling. But obviously we’ve been going through some times where it’s been a little tougher, but that also ... it just makes you even harder to get back on track. I didn’t really know what to expect when I came here. I come from a pretty small town, so I was pretty open-minded about everything — like how to approach the game and everything around the game — and so far I love everything about it.
Q: How do you deal with the pressures of being the goaltender in New York?
A: You try to, I think, bring it down to a level where it feels comfortable for you. Yes, I know a lot of people expect a lot of us and me, a lot of people put pressure on us ... but you try just to focus on what you have to do, and it’s what I do every do, and I practice on it every day. So when it’s game time you try to just keep that level where it’s like, “OK, this is what I do, don’t think too much.” That’s what happens sometimes when you struggle, you start thinking too much, and you start thinking about all the people that are putting pressure on you, and they want you to play well, and all this. ... It comes for me just to stop the puck. So being the goalie here, I just try to break it down — stop the puck, that’s it. Don’t try to overthink it.
Q: You married your Swedish sweetheart, Therese, last summer.
A: She’s very supportive and caring. We understand each other. She knows me really well. It’s a great feeling to have someone that you can trust 100 percent. We have a lot of fun together.
Q: How does she deal with you being a sex symbol?
A: (Chuckle) Obviously when you play sports, you get more attention. ... It’s not easy always, but she handles things really well. I think she was well prepared as well for New York. ... It’s not always easy to be next to the person that is getting a lot of attention or have people around you asking for stuff all the time.
Q: What drives you?
A: Winning. Pretty simple. Growing up, all that mattered to me was winning. Doesn’t matter it was skiing or soccer or hockey ... playing cards.
Q: Winning a Vezina Trophy?
A: It’s a dream, no question, to win Vezina, yeah. It’s the ultimate prize for a goalie, I think. It’s a goal. I think it motivates me a lot to try to be the best.
Q: In the last year, where do you think you’ve made the biggest improvement in your game?
A: I feel like I’m more in control on rebounds.
Q: Describe, in 25 words or less, Torts.
A: Honest, passionate, challenging coach ... competitor.
Q: Brad Richards?
A: Smart player ... very professional in everything he does ... great hockey sense.
Q: Brandon Dubinsky?
A: Hard-working ... great teammate. ... He will always stand up for you. ... If there’s a scrum, Dubi will go in first and make sure nobody’s touching his teammate.
Q: Marion Gaborik?
A: Great skater, sniper ... focused.
Q: Ryan Callahan?
A: Warrior ... always paying the price ... leader. ... He leads the way he plays ... physical.
Q: King Henrik?
A: (Laugh) Focused ... competitor ... love winning.
Q: Funniest guy on the team?
A: [Dan] Girardi’s pretty funny. He always talks to himself and it’s pretty funny. He does it on the ice, too. I’m used to it now, but the first couple of times it happened, I was like, “Who is he talking to?”
Q: Athlete in other sports you admire?
A: Roger Federer.
Q: How did you become friendly with John McEnroe?
A: We’ve been running into each other over the years here in New York, in concerts and hockey games, and we talk about music, and finally we’re jamming together and then came up with an idea to host a rock show and raise money for charity. It’s been a lot of fun, jamming.
Q: His temperament when he played was the exact opposite of yours.
A: (Chuckle) I mean, when I play and then things go the wrong way, I can be pretty upset, too ... but he’s a very cool guy, and very nice guy.
Q: How would you describe your style of dress?
A: Well-dressed with an edge? (smile).
Q: Favorite recent movies?
A: “The Town,” “The Fighter.”
Q: Retire here?
A: I would love to play here forever, yeah.