Henrik Lundqvist sat by his locker at the MSG Training Center Monday morning, greeting several reporters who cover the Rangers during the season, and smiled his welcoming smile.
"It's almost time, isn't it?," he asked rhetorically.
Yes, it is is. Time for another season, Lundqvist's 11th in the National Hockey League, all of which have been spent with the New York Rangers. His, and the team's, quest to win the Stanley Cup still the main story line in 2015-16 after just falling short the past two seasons.
"Right now you could think about it, the whole picture, the long journey, the season, but when the camp starts (at the end of this week) you break it down, just focus on camp, having a good first week, get some games in and do well there, then focus on the first game (of the regular season)," explained Lundqvist. "That's extremely important. If you do think about the big picture and the long journey it's tough to perform; and it's mentally challenging to be in the right place if you are too far ahead of yourself."
Lundqvist admits that he spent quite a bit of time this past summer focusing on the big picture, as he calls it, after he and the Rangers dropped Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning, one year after reaching the Stanley Cup Final, falling short against the Los Angeles Kings.
It took the team's star 33 year-old goaltender "three-to-four weeks" in his estimation to move past the fact that the Rangers did not win the Cup again last spring.
"We had such a good opportunity, that's the tough part to accept," explained Lundqvist. "So you get upset and frustrated, but then you come to a point where it's like OK I can't keep walking around thinking about this any more and you move on. You still think about it, but you have to accept that it's over."
Part of the off-season decompressing process Lundqvist goes through includes remembering all the positive moments from the prior season. And even though Lundqvist suffered the first major injury of his career, 2014-15 was still full of memorable moments for the talented Swede and his teammates, not he least of which were winning the President's Trophy and truly scintillating playoff victories over the Penguins, Capitals and Lightning in the spring.
"I don't always just think about the last game, same as last year against L.A., I want to remember all the good moments, as well, all the great games we played at The Garden and the big wins we had," offered Lundqvist, who posted a 30-13-3 record with five shutouts, a 2.25 GAA and .922 save percentage in 46 regular season games a year ago.
"It would be a waste to just walk around and just think about the last game we lost. There were a lot of good moments leading up to that point."
With the team's recent run of success the past four years--which includes a pair of first-place finishes, a President's Trophy as the top team in the regular season, three trips to the Eastern Conference Final and the 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance--expectations have been raised around the Rangers, and also within their own dressing room.
Lundqvist believes this is a great development from when he first joined the Blueshirts back in 2005-06.
"Maybe the difference now in the past three or four years, I feel like when you get here there are different expectations on our team that maybe be didn't have the first four, five years I was here," explained Lundqvist, the all-time franchise leader in wins (339).
"I think it used to be that we always hoped to be a contender, but now we all expect to be up there. That being said it's a lot of work to be able to get to that point every year."
His tone growing a bit more serious, even with the start to the regular season roughly a month away, Henrik Lundqvist looked around the team's dressing room.
"You feel the expectations walking in here. That's a good thing."