Tom Renney loved hearing it. That goalie Henrik Lundqvist
rated his play in the preseason a five on a scale of one to 10 was music to the Rangers' coach's ears.
Renney wants his players to beg for more. He wants them to believe they can be better, and right now his star goalie is thinking along those lines.
"What I really like is the fact that he felt he could be better," Renney said. "I think that's an important revelation for any player, and he's the type of guy that will do something about that."
Lundqvist was supposed to play two full preseason games and parts of another two, but he gave up four goals in just over 30 minutes against New Jersey last Saturday and was pulled in favor of Stephen Valiquette
He had another slow start Wednesday night in Bern, Switzerland, against Metallurg Magnitogorsk. The Rangers trailed 3-0 halfway through the game, but this time Renney left Lundqvist in, and he responded with a big second half.
So, too, did his teammates, who rallied for four goals to win the inaugural Victoria Cup game, 4-3. Lundqvist wound up with 19 saves on 22 shots.
"They scored right away (1:28 into the game), and especially early in the season you really have to battle to get back in the game," Lundqvist said. "That's what pleased me (Wednesday). I kept battling and the team played great so we came out with a win. That was big."
On so many levels.
Not that any of his teammates ever doubted Lundqvist, but seeing him rebound the way he did Wednesday gave them a big confidence boost. It's no surprise the Rangers started to dominate the game when Lundqvist started to own his crease.
"Hank is very mentally strong and he bounces back very quickly," defenseman Marc Staal
said. "He's the backbone of our team, and when he's playing well and bouncing back like that it gives us so much more confidence to finish game off like we did."
Lundqvist had a cortisone shot in each knee in August due to inflammation, but said he feels fine, and wouldn't blame the soreness for his somewhat-rocky preseason. Instead, Lundqvist said it just takes him time to get back to feeling like he's in a rhythm.
When he gets in one, he's one of the best goalies in the game. Lundqvist has won 104 of his 195 NHL games since coming into the League in 2005, and he boasts a 2.27 goals-against average and.917 save percentage. He's been a Vezina Trophy finalist in all three of his NHL seasons.
Lundqvist hopes the Magnitogorsk game was the stepping stone he needs to take off once the regular season begins Saturday with the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008.
"I feel better every day, but I can't expect to feel great right away," said Lundqvist, who finished last season with 37 wins, a 2.23 GAA and a .912 save percentage. "Every period you start to get back to feeling what you had last year. It takes a while to get that feeling. My emotions when I play are mixed between being relaxed and aggressive. To find that mix takes a while."
Renney has no doubts Lundqvist will find it this weekend.
"He was very solid in the third period (against Magnitogorsk)," Renney said. "He is a world-class goaltender, one of the best in the world, and he plays for us. He recognizes that he can and will be better."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.