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Offense or not, Lundqvist only worries about his play

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is not about to go crazy because of his teammates' inability to stake him to an early lead. You won't find him screaming or throwing things in the dressing room.

That's not his style, or what he's about.

"Honestly, it's not a concern for me at all how many goals we score," Lundqvist said after a brisk practice Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. "I just try to focus on my game."

His game has been good enough to get the Rangers within two wins of the Stanley Cup Final and six wins from their first championship in 18 years. However, by now Lundqvist also knows he will have to be as close to perfect as he can be in order for the Rangers to bring the Stanley Cup to New York for just the second time since 1940.


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The Rangers are scoring only 2.11 goals per game in the playoffs, by far the fewest of the four teams. They have scored three or more goals in only six of their 18 games this spring. By comparison, the Devils, Kings and Coyotes all have played fewer games yet have scored three or more goals more times than the Rangers.

The Devils, who will look to reassert their aggressive forecheck again in Game 5 in an attempt to take the lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, have scored three or more goals in 12 of their 16 games and are averaging 2.69 goals per game in the playoffs.

Then again, the Devils also had to win Game 4 Monday at Prudential Center just to get into the same position as the Rangers heading into Game 5 at the Garden. Lundqvist is the main reason why.

He is 6-0 in the games that the Rangers have scored three or more goals and 10-2 when he allows two or fewer. His margin for error is also so slim the Rangers have yet to win a game when Lundqvist allows three goals (0-6).

"My approach to the game and my mindset doesn't change no matter how many goals we score," said Lundqvist, who has a 1.64 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in the playoffs. "A lot of times two or three goals have been enough. I try to approach it the same way -- focus on my things, the things I can control.

"We will have nights where we score more goals and some nights we're going to win 1-0 or 2-1. I'm fine with that."

While the Rangers' lack of offense would appear to be an added burden Lundqvist would like to have lifted, he says he's not frustrated as much by that as he is with the team's struggles early in games against the Devils, which has been a problem all series.

Lundqvist has been under siege in the first period and even the Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist can't be perfect all the time when that happens. He was in Games 1 and 3, but he gave up a goal in the first period of Game 2 and allowed two goals with the Devils attacking relentlessly in the first period of Game 4.

"My approach to the game and my mindset doesn't change no matter how many goals we score. A lot of times two or three goals have been enough. I try to approach it the same way -- focus on my things, the things I can control."
-- Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist

The Rangers, of course, won Games 1 and 3 by identical 3-0 scores; they lost Games 2 and 4 by a combined 7-3. That's how they got into what's become a best-of-three with the Devils.

"We have to concentrate on our start. I think that's a big thing for us," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "This whole series I don't think we've started games well, and we've addressed that in here. We realize we need to be better at the beginning of games, especially with the way they come out and how hard they come at you. That's something we have to be better with."

Lundqvist agrees, but even if the Rangers aren't better with their start in Game 5 he still will approach every minute, every shot he faces, every scoring chance created by the Devils' forecheck or off a turnover in the same manner.

"You want to try to get a balance there, where you don't get too high or too low between games or during the game," Lundqvist said. "You have to approach it the same way so you can keep making good decisions there. Of course you feel the pressure, but you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself. You want to see it as a great challenge and a great opportunity instead of a lot of pressure."

And if the Devils again take an early lead, as they did in Game 4 on first-period goals by Bryce Salvador and Travis Zajac, will Lundqvist's mindset change?

Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist
Goalie - NYR
RECORD: 10-8-2
GAA: 1.64 | SVP: 0.939
"Not for me, not my mindset, no," he said. "The only thing I can control is stopping the next shot. Of course it's easier to play when you have the lead or when it's a 0-0 game. When you're behind two goals as a team sometimes you might try to turn things around in one shift, but you have to be patient and just keep working hard and the chances will come."

Lundqvist still believes the Rangers will capitalize on those chances enough to win this series and eventually win the Stanley Cup.

"It will happen," he said, "but again, I try not to think too much about how we play as a team because it's not something I can control."

No, he instead controls the Rangers' fate in these playoffs, and it's likely he'll have to stay as close to perfect as he possibly can.

"For me it's all about my mindset and the way I think," Lundqvist said. "My technique is not going to change over the next couple of weeks. It's all about how I approach it and how I think during the game, making the decisions. It's all in my head."

And on his shoulders.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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