BY PAT LEONARD
Here comes Henrik Lundqvist down the tunnel, through the boards and onto the ice, a half-hour before puck drop. His teammates follow. This is the Rangers’ warm-up routine. This is how they prepare to play their games.
Lundqvist is the most fascinating to watch as the players skate in a circle toward the net, up the boards and back down the middle of their own zone. Lundqvist touches the post with his stick the first time he reaches the net. On his way back around, he waves his arms above his head and stretches each leg forward once.
On his second approach to the net, Lundqvist fires a puck at the goal. On his third go-around he touches his own pads. Then he retreats to the neutral zone to proceed through a fascinating routine of slides, pushes and pad-squeezes.
The most interesting moment occurs, though, when the Rangers skaters gather soon after in three lines to take shots on their King. Lundqvist retreats to the crease, gets in position, bows his head, and then holds. He starts nodding his head as he looks down. He looks almost like he’s talking to himself.
Dan Girardi waits to take the first shot from the right wing, with Dominic Moore in the middle and Derek Stepan on the left. And they wait and wait for as long as Lundqvist needs, until the goalie suddenly snaps out of it, taps the ice with his stick and turns to Girardi.
What is Lundqvist doing in those 10-to-15 seconds? Is he praying?
“No. I collect myself a little bit,” Lundqvist tells the Daily News recently. “You concentrate on things you do before you get going. I just go over a few things. It’s so much mental how I prepare. What I’m going over is more technical.”
Lundqvist laughs at the thought that his routine has been observed in detail, like he’d never thought before that people may be watching.
“I’ve done it so many times I don’t really think about it,” he said. “It’s probably a combination, maybe superstitious but more routine.”