Who will be the New York Rangers starting goaltender in the play-in round against the Carolina Hurricanes? The answer? 24-year-old, Igor Shesterkin.
As Sam Rosen said when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup after 54 years, “the waiting is over.” Yes, the waiting is over for the Rangers as they are back in the postseason. But now, the question is who will backstop the Rangers in goal. The answer? Igor Shesterkin.
Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the best goaltender in Rangers’ history. The former seventh round pick has been the Rangers’ backbone ever since he broke into the league, rightfully earning his nickname, “the King.” However, the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer is not where he once reigned. It is time to pass the torch to the promising future of the Rangers net to Igor Shesterkin.
The former fourth round pick has been in the spotlight in every Rangers fans eyes ever since he took the KHL by storm. When he came to North America, Shesterkin opened eyes around the NHL when he was in the American Hockey League with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The rookie goaltender posted a 17-4-3 record with three shutouts and 1.90 goals against average (GAA). Shesterkin earned a spot in on the roster and caused a stir posting posting a 9-1-0 record before a car accident sidelined him for two weeks.
These are just his numbers in North America. They were even better in the KHL, recognized as the second best hockey league in the world. It may not be the NHL, but his numbers were unworldly, a remarkable 88-16-7, mostly with SKA Saint Petersburg.
Shesterkin had a 1.68 GAA in his KHL career with a .935 save percentage. Those numbers for a young goalie are staggering, which gave hope to New York Rangers fans’ that the throne in goal would be well protected.
A 12 game sample size is not enough, but the numbers for Shesterkin are starter-like numbers compared to Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev. Lundqvist, over his last 12 games, had a record of 3-5-1. The other three games Lundqvist came in relief, including a short shift against the Winnipeg Jets due to Shesterkin having to clear the ice for concussion protocol. Georgiev over his last 12 games posted a 5-5-1 record. Georgiev relieved Lundqvist against the Stars in a 5-3 loss at MSG.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote an article explaining why Lundqvist is the obvious choice to start for the Rangers. His career numbers against the Hurricanes are eye opening with a
33-12-1 record, including a perfect 3-0 record against them this season.
Brooks gives thrilling numbers about the most winningest goaltender in Rangers history, but digging deeper into just this season alone, Shesterkin has been lights out numerous times. The Young Russian rookie posted four 40-plus save performances in 12 games this year giving the Rangers a chance to win each and every night.
Of course, I am not trying to take away from Henrik Lundqvist and his outstanding resume which includes one Vezina Trophy, Olympic gold, and silver, gold in the 2017 World Championships, winningest goalie in the Rangers 94 year history and most shutouts. There is not doubt that one day fans will walk into Madison Square Garden and look up at the rafters to see number 30 hanging high on the iconic ceiling.
The build toward a successful team for the 2020-21 season will begin in the goal. The fact that the Rangers are in the postseason is a gift from the NHL. Now, do I believe if there was a full 82- game schedule would the Rangers be in the playoffs? I don’t know. It would be a battle for the last wild card spot. With that said, the Rangers are there and it would give them a chance to see where Sheskterin’s game is in the NHL. In recent years, rookie goalies have been successful in the postseason.
Nobody can forget what the St. Louis Blues did last season. Being in last place at the beginning of January to eventually hoisting the Stanley Cup is a run to remember. Don’t forget that the goalie in net for the Blues was no veteran. It was rookie, Jordan Binnington.
The other rookie goalie people should remember, who also brought his team home with a Stanley Cup Championship was Matt Murray. Murray took over the Pittsburgh net when, Marc-Andre Fleury, was out due to injury. Murray went on to keep the starting job and win the Stanley Cup that season and next, making him the only goalie in NHL history to win two Cups as a rookie.
Rangers fans’ and even the Rangers’ players might be thinking, “why not us?”