There's no denying the 2009-10 season was one that didn't live up the expectations of the New York Rangers. The real debate begins when talking about what led to the team missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04.
Was it the lack of scoring from everyone not named Marian Gaborik?
Was it a blue line that featured two rookies learning on the job for a better part of the season?
Were the players not buying into John Tortorella's system?
Did the team need a reliable backup goaltender?
Philadelphia Flyers in the final game of the regular season. That was the difference between experts discussing what's wrong with the Rangers and how they made the postseason for a fifth-consecutive season.
For goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the reason the Rangers were on the golf course earlier than they expected came down to a one-word answer.
"I don't think we need to be that much better to be in the playoffs. We just need to be more consistent," Lundqvist said. "There were a few games when we just let it slip away. When you think about it, we missed by one point and we easily could've gotten that one point during the year. It's hard to be disappointed about the last game. We went on a good run there the last 13, 14 games. It was more during the year, really, when we let too many points slip away.
"It was a big disappointment. It was a tough end. When you think about it sometimes, it still bothers you a little bit. But you have to turn the page and just move on and get ready for the next season. It reminds you that you can't take anything for granted and you can't expect to be in the playoffs. You have to work really hard to get there."
That's why the Rangers didn't tinker too much with the roster during the offseason. The move that affects Lundqvist the most is the signing of backup goaltender Martin Biron, a veteran who spent last season with the New York Islanders. Lundqvist played in a career-high 73 games last season after Steven Valiquette was sent packing to the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack and Matt Zaba and Chad Johnson mostly took turns sitting on the bench while Lundqvist carried the heavy workload.
After four seasons in a row of at least 70 games, it looks like Lundqvist might get a bit of a break this season with Biron in the fold.
"He's a good goalie," Lundqvist said of Biron. "It's hard to say now how many games I'd play this year. I'll just keep doing my best to play. If you want to play into June, you need a guy behind me that's going to play more than 10 games. In the past I've been playing 72, 73 games. I think it's a good to move."
But don't think for a second that Lundqvist was begging for time off after playing 4,203 minutes last season, fifth-most in the League.
"I felt good," said Lundqvist, who went 7-1-2 to close the season. "Going down the stretch, I was pretty happy with the way I was playing. But like I said, if you want to play for another two months, you might need some rest toward the end. Hopefully we'll have a good team and me and Marty together can help the team to win."
The other notable signing by Rangers GM Glen Sather was 6-foot-7, 275-pound forward Derek Boogaard, who spent the first five years of his career with the Minnesota Wild as a physical force. During a conference call, Sather said the driving force behind signing Boogaard was too many players crowding Lundqvist's crease and giving him snow showers. Lundqvist said he never felt he was under attack, but he welcomes the addition of Boogaard.
"I think we had guys playing pretty physical, but I think he'll be a great player to have for us," Lundqvist said. "He'll add toughness for sure. I still think we had some last year for sure. To have a big guy like that, he's going to add even more to the table."
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