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Lundqvist seeks to be sharper mentally next season with Rangers

Goalie says he didn't have right mindset with New York falling out of contention

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Henrik Lundqvist will spend the first part of his offseason soul-searching and analyzing what went wrong for him with the New York Rangers in the past two months.

"I think it was more challenging than I expected it to be, and that's something I have to learn from, obviously, how to approach it," the goalie said Sunday, the day after the Rangers season ended.

Lundqvist, who won two of his final 16 starts, has two seasons remaining on the seven-year contract he signed Dec. 13, 2013. The 37-year-old said he'll spend the offseason preparing to rejoin the elite at his position. The Rangers expect that he will.

 

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"The guy is still a great goalie," general manager Jeff Gorton said. "I just think it didn't go his way the last few games. I look for him to be great again."

Before Lundqvist can turn his focus, he said he has to figure out what happened to him this season, when he finished with fewer than 20 wins for the first time in his 14 NHL seasons. Lundqvist went 18-23-10 with the worst goals-against average (3.07) and save percentage (.907) of his NHL career. It was his first NHL season without a shutout.

"There were a lot of games I felt pretty good, but good wasn't enough to make a difference and that's what I want to do here," Lundqvist said.

Video: Breakup Day 2019: Henrik Lundqvist

Lundqvist's biggest problem was his inability to raise his play when the Rangers needed him most to try to save their season. He was 16-12-7 with a 3.01 GAA and .908 save percentage in 36 games through January, including going 4-0-0 with a .912 save percentage and 2.50 GAA from Jan. 15-31.

It wasn't vintage Lundqvist, but it was good enough to keep the Rangers in the playoff race. They were eight points out of a playoff spot entering February.

But Lundqvist went 2-11-3 with a 3.20 GAA and .906 save percentage in 16 starts from Feb. 2-April 3. The Rangers missed the playoffs by 20 points. Though his save percentage and GAA weren't that far off from what they were before February, Lundqvist felt he didn't deal well with the Rangers' drop in play, and the realization that they weren't going to reach the playoffs.

Even though coach David Quinn said he and Lundqvist have talked about easing his workload in the first half of next season so he can be fresher for the second half, the goalie said his problems were mental.

"Just dealing with the situation we're in," said Lundqvist, who has reached the playoffs 11 times in 14 seasons. "Coming in very excited and hoping we could surprise people and maybe sneak in, I believed that for a long time and it gave me energy to play. I think slowly it got to me maybe a little bit when you start to realize that's not the case, we're not going to be where I hoped. It was more we are where we were expected to be. That was obviously on me not being able to have the right mindset personally."

New York went 10-15-7 in its final 32 games, including 5-10-5 after trading forwards Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, and defenseman Adam McQuaid, all regulars in the lineup, before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25. 

Lundqvist was also outplayed in the final two months by rookie Alexandar Georgiev, who went 8-4-4 with a .928 save percentage and 2.58 GAA in his final 16 starts.

Regardless, the past two months haven't changed how the Rangers feel about him.

"He's still one of the top goalies in the League," Quinn said, "and he's a part of our future."

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