Counting overtime and shootout losses, the New York Rangers lost 50 games in 2018-19. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist calls it the “toughest season of my professional career.”
For the second season in a row, Lundqvist lost more games than he won (18-23-10). This is a goalie who has recorded 30 or more wins 11 times.
“In November of last year, when we were winning, I enjoyed it so much,” said the 37-year-old Lundqvist. “I was playing at the level that I want to play at. I’m thinking ‘I could do this for many more years.’ Then in the second half of the season, it felt a lot different. The mindset, and everything that was going on, changed the way I was feeling.”
But the Rangers’ bold off-season moves — acquiring Jacob Trouba, signing free agent Artemi Panarin, adding prospect Adam Fox and drafting Kaapo Kakko — have Lundqvist animated about the club’s reboot. He doesn’t know how it will work out, but he is excited to be part of it.
He said at this month’s media tour in Chicago that he thinks it’s possible he can play beyond the last two years of his contract. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson, at 38, is the only starting goalie older than Lundqvist.
“With a fresh mind and if your body is healthy,” Lundqvist, entering his 15th year, said of playing beyond 40. “I still love the game and that’s where it starts. You have to love it, because you do have to sacrifice a lot in how you train and the commitment you make.”
Lundqvist knows he still loves the game because he loves being at the practice rink.
“It’s a fun competition, to go up against all of the young guys who are so skilled and fast,” Lundqvist said. “I enjoy all of it, (including) the travel part. Being a Ranger is not something I take for granted. I know how well they treat us.”
He also loves New York City. Most Swedish players go home when they retire, but Lundqvist and his wife are planning to stay in New York when he does stop playing.
The goalie says he doesn’t spend much time thinking about retirement. He has thought about how he can stay in the game. Four years ago, he began to lose weight.
“For many years I was at 198 to 200 pounds, and now I’m at 182,” Lundqvist said. “It wasn’t all at once. I went from 198 to 187, and then in the last two years I’ve gone below 185.”
At the beginning of his career, he often played 70 games. Last season: 52. That’s not a concession to age. That’s a reaction to the increased speed and action in the game.
“To play great, you can’t play too many games,” Lundqvist said.
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He said he felt good this past summer, and that the highlight was seeing the Rangers make aggressive moves to turn the team’s fortunes around.
“It was important to me to see us making progress,” he said.