By Brett Cyrgalis
LOS ANGELES — On the eve of his first Stanley Cup finals, Henrik Lundqvist was asked to reflect. So he thought about a picture hanging in the Rangers practice facility in Westchester, a photo from the Cup-winning team of 1994 that he has seen since his first days with the franchise in 2005.
“My first couple days at the training center, seeing that photo from ’94, I’ve been walking by that photo every day for nine years,” Lundqvist said at Staples Center on Tuesday’s media day ahead of Wednesday’s Game 1 against the Kings. “I’ve seen myself being there and I definitely want to go there. It’s been a dream for a long time. To be in this position, it’s extremely exciting.”
Even more exciting for the Blueshirts’ backbone goalie was to allow himself just the smallest of moments to be in that place, to see himself in those photos, and to see his adopted hometown around him in one large embrace.
“It’s a sports town,” Lundqvist said. “When things start going well for any team in that town, it’s exciting. We’ve seen the Yankees and the Giants, they’ve been winning and you see what happens to that city.
“And obviously what it would mean to this organization, it would mean everything. It would be very special to be part of it.”
Despite the fact Lundqvist is going into this series as the odds-on favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP, he has also been adamant throughout the playoffs to deflect attention from himself and toward the team. On the grandest of stages, under the brightest lights, he did that once again — but did it with full recognition of what it would mean for him personally if in two weeks he was skating around with a 34 ¹/₂-pound chalice over his head.
“I got the question going into the playoffs [about] if I have anything to prove in the playoffs, and I don’t feel that way,” Lundqvist said. “I see this as a great opportunity now, for us as a team and for me personally, to win the Stanley Cup, no question. I’ve been in New York for nine years. It’s been a dream ever since I’ve come to New York to try to win and bring the Cup to New York.”
The closest Lundqvist has come was two seasons ago, when the Rangers fell short in the conference finals against the Devils. But from the view between the pipes, this team is different.
“Two years ago,” he said, “we didn’t have the amount of guys we have now that can be the difference every night.”
For Lundqvist, it’s clear this team is better.
“We definitely have the team to do it,” Lundqvist said. “Now it comes down to we need everyone to play their absolute best.”