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Despite Loss, Positives to Be Taken From Rangers Season

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The sting of their six-game defeat to the Senators was still prevalent Thursday morning when the Rangers met with coaches, management and the media for the final time to wrap up the 2016-17 season.

But despite the disappointment of what many felt was a missed opportunity to advance to the team's fourth Eastern Conference Final since 2012, players and head coach Alain Vigneault still stressed there were positives to be had.

"We came in, we retooled a little bit on the fly," Vigneault told reporters on Thursday. "For the most part this year we were one of the top-five teams in the League. We were the top-five in scoring. There were a lot of good things for a team that was retooling and that wasn't given a lot of chance as far as getting into the playoffs.

"This disappointment will go into our bank of experience and maybe we'll use it better next time."

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said that while he and his teammates fell short of their ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup, his belief in his teammates never wavered, even up until the end.

"I look at this team and if you asked me do we have a chance to win this year? Absolutely, so of course I believe in this group," he said. "I believe in what we have in this room, but we came up short. It's important you spend some time here and analyze why and try to correct it for next year." 

Players and coaches often state throughout the regular season that there are no easy games in the NHL, and that just getting into the playoffs is an accomplishment in itself after the grind of an 82-game regular season.

"Look at the regular season and the playoffs and the ups and downs," Lundqvist said. "In the end, there's a lot of teams that are not playing, going into the playoffs and especially the second round. There's definitely some good things here and you should feel good about that, but at the same time we came up short of our goal here to go all the way."

There are changes made on every team after every season, even from the one fortunate enough to hoist the Stanley Cup in mid-June. But just how much change will happen in New York is not up to those who make their living on the ice.

"We say it every year. It's not our job to worry about anything other than being players," said Derek Stepan. "I'm real proud of our group. We worked extremely hard all year long and we did a lot of good things. We're players and that's what we're going to focus in on."

When asked about how much change the team needed, captain Ryan McDonagh said it's a valid question that must be asked, but that the goal of next season doesn't change with the personnel. 

"Every team is going to ask that at this point now, but for our group the only thing you can continue to do is work at it and try and prove," McDonagh said. "Get yourself into a position next year to try and make another run. Who knows what's going to happen with the team and who is going to be back or not. But whoever is going to be back, you know is going to work as hard as they can and do whatever they can to make this group successful."

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