The Game 3 goalie decision is not such an easy call

Is it time for the New York Rangers to play Georgiev in Game Three if Shesterkin is still out?

There is no doubt that if Igor Shesterkin can play, he will start Game Three.  But if he cannot, David Quinn and the New York Rangers will have an interesting choice to make.  Do they give the start to Alexandar Georgiev in the hope that he can spur the team to a win?  Or do they start Henrik Lundqvist in what could be his last game in a Ranger uniform?

The sentimentalists will say go with Lundqvist. He didn’t play badly in the first two games and had no support from the Rangers’ offense. After 15 years, isn’t he entitled to start the remaining games in a series they are probably destined to lose?  Considering that he will probably be bought out after the season, shouldn’t he finish his Rangers career on the ice instead of suffering the ignominious fate of being benched?

Anyone who believes that this team has the moxie to come back from a 0-2 deficit will go with Georgiev.   Anyone who believes that this is a learning experience will favor Georgiev.

Actually, anyone who watched the game Monday will have to go with Georgiev.  Henrik Lundqvist was outplayed by Petr Mrazek, particularly in the first period.  He didn’t stop the shots he had to stop and there are no excuses to be made, he was beaten.  If Mrazek doesn’t stop that point blank shot from Howden or Zibanejad’s break-in, it’s a completely different game.  But in the first period, he made the stops and Lundqvist didn’t.

The decision-making process

You can be sure that David Quinn still wants to win this series. He will go with the goalie that he feels gives him the best chance to win.  For Jeff Gorton and John Davidson it might be different.  As upper management, they know the flaws in this team and they have to plan for the future.  With the potential buyout of Lundqvist’s contract looming, they know that it will be controversial and giving him a chance to end his Rangers career with dignity might be an option for them.

Another issue is that a third loss may convince Lundqvist that his time has come and he may choose retirement.  He’s never even broached that topic publicly, but he has  to be thinking about it.  That would be the best option for the Rangers when it comes to the all important salary cap.

Why retire?  This is the second year in a row that Lundqvist has been less than stellar on the big stage.  Last year, he was the centerpiece of the Swedish national team at the IIHF World Championships.  He was the face of the team and he went 4-2 in the tournament with a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.84 and a .887 Save Percentage (SV%).

However, most of those games were in the preliminary round against weak competition.  In Sweden’s toughest game first round game, he lost 5-2 to the Czech Republic.  In the medal round, Lundqvist and Sweden lost in overtime to Finland 5-4 and were eliminated.

Take out the early games against Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Latvia and Lundqvist’s numbers weren’t pretty.  In his two games against teams that made it to the medal round (Finland and Czech Republic) he allowed ten goals on 62 shots for an .871 SV% and a  4.94 GAA.

The question for Lundqvist is whether the writing is on the wall and will he decide it is time to call it quits?  Does he really want to be bought out and face a less than receptive marketplace? Is there really a contender willing to  sign him to a bargain basement contract so he spend the next season as a veteran back up?  And is that something that he would want?

Maybe he would prefer to go back to Sweden and play a season for Frolunda with his twin brother Joel.

You can be sure that there have been some gut wrenching conversations between Lundqvist and Davidson.  As a former goalkeeper, JD can relate to the Swede’s experiences especially when it comes to retiring.   Injuries limited Davidson to 13 games in his last three seasons with the Rangers and he eventually had to hang up his skates when he was only 29.

Don’t forget that in 2009, after one year as a Ranger, Markus Naslund retired from the NHL rather than not play to his usual standards.  He ended a 15 year career and walked away from the second year of a two-year, $8 million contract.  He went back to Sweden and played part of one more year with Modo in the SHL.

About Game 3

With back-to-back-games, we will know very quickly what the decision will be on a goalie for Tuesday’s game. After the game David Quinn said “I thought Hank was solid…listen, we get one goal, we’re not going to win scoring one goal.  We sorta left him out to dry there the last two for sure.  We haven’t made an announcement, we haven’t decided what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

It’s not an easy decision.  There’s a 15 year legacy to be considered along with plans for the future.  For fans it may be an easy call.  For the Rangers’ brain trust, it’s not so simple.