Henrik Lundqvist is determined to lead the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup championship that's eluded them despite three trips to the Eastern Conference Final and one to the Stanley Cup Final in the past four seasons.
"If I look back at the last four years, we've had a lot of great moments, especially in the playoffs," the goaltender told the New York Daily News at The Citi Henrik Lundqvist Hockey ProCamp at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers on Sunday. "You learn from it and you appreciate it, but obviously the main goal is to take that final step."
After losing the 2014 Stanley Cup Final to the Los Angeles Kings in five games, the Rangers won the Presidents' Trophy last season but were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference final, losing 2-0 in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
"We're close. We're really close," Lundqvist told reporter Pat Leonard. "We just need to take that final step. I think it feeds motivation, being close. You know you're doing good things, doing the right things. You just need to make sure as a group and personally you take that final step."
The Rangers will have a new look when they begin training camp. During the 2015 NHL Draft, they acquired forward Emerson Etem from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade for forward Carl Hagelin, and traded goalie Cam Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers. Forward Martin St. Louis retired, and New York signed free agent forwards Jarret Stoll and Viktor Stalberg.
"I definitely think we have as good of a team as last year, but it's up to us to prove it, obviously," Lundqvist, 33, said. "Changes will always happen for different reasons, but I like the fact that the core is still here. It's a group that's been playing together for a lot of years. We've been through the ups and downs, we know what to expect from each other. I think that's going to help us again this year."
Lundqvist went 30-13-3 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, missing 25 regular-season games with a vascular injury to his neck. He was 11-8 with a 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage in 19 playoff games.
"But it was also good to feel how much the game meant to you," Lundqvist said. "Sometimes you take it for granted, and then when it's not there, you miss not only the game but everything about the game: the travel, being with the team, the people you meet. There's so many things that you appreciate but you might not think about until it's not there.
"I mean, the feeling you have coming back has been the same the last few years: It's exciting to be back and you just want to get going and prepare yourself for a great training camp and a great season. It hasn't really changed the last few years: You go home, you try to get away from it a little bit, and you come back motivated to try to get better and do better."