GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers continue to be mentioned as one of the Stanley Cup favorites this upcoming season, and goalie Henrik Lundqvist can understand why. A talented and deep squad that fell just short of making the finals last season surrounds him in the team's locker room.
"I think we have the team to do it. But then it's about executing and go out there and we talked about it earlier, handling expectations from the outside but also within the room," Lundqvist said. "We look at the guys in the room, they're great hockey players, but it's about executing and see if we can do it."
The Rangers enter the season with high expectations after a big trade in the offseason following their Eastern Conference Finals appearance last season. A revamped offense, a stout defense and a stud goalie give the Rangers a team to be reckoned with entering this year.
"I think the most important thing is what we feel in here and we're going to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well," Lundqvist said. "We want to do well but we have to realize too it's a tough league and there are a lot of teams that can win this year and for you to win you have to perform at a top level and you need a lot of things to go your way, but a thing you can control is how hard you work. Just have to be similar to last year and must improve in a few areas."
After finishing no better than third in the division or making it out of the conference semifinals the previous six seasons, the Rangers finally broke through last year, garnering the top seed and making it to the finals before losing to the Devils.
Defenseman Marc Staal believes there are more expectations for this group of Rangers than any team he's been on since he joined the squad in 2007. He added that the Rangers' expectations for themselves are higher than what they are from the outside, and the team is not bothered by that pressure.
"I think the way we finished last year, the pieces we added in the offseason, and expectations outside the room, I don't think it's anything that anyone is going to shy away from," Staal said. "We have to make sure that we focus on the way we need to play and pick up where we left off last year and go from there and not get too distracted by the big picture."
For as much optimism as there is surrounding the Rangers, they are cognizant that they didn't reach the top of the mountain last year. Although last season may have been one of the best in franchise history, there's still room for improvement and growth entering this shortened season.
"There's extra pressure put on us from the outside but as a group in here we have to realize it's still a process, we have to continue to get better throughout the season and nothing has happened yet," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "We had a good year last year but that's last year. We have to prove ourselves again."