Another night brings another big game for the New York Rangers as they look to snap a two-game losing streak when they take on the New Jersey Devils in the series finale of the Hudson River rivalry at Prudential Center tonight.
After being shutout by the New York Islanders and then losing in the shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers, this is a big game for the Blueshirts with only 11 games of the regular season remaining after tonight.
New York’s last trip across the Hudson River proved to be an ugly one after blowing a two-goal lead to lose 7-4, and if there’s been one worrying trend about this team recently then it is the fact they have played down to their opposition when playing non-playoff teams.
That can’t happen anymore with the Rangers looking to lock up a first trip to the postseason since 2017, and tonight’s game will be a good test when it comes to seeing how this team responds to adversity amidst a couple of tough losses.
It won’t be easy given that the Devils, led by an exciting young core, play hard every night and refuse to give up, and there’s three keys to the Rangers getting back in the win column…
1. Bounceback in the crease
At the time of writing this, it is not yet known who will get the start between the pipes against the Devils, although it is likely that Alexandar Georgiev will go in order to give Igor Shesterkin some rest before the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Whoever is in net tonight, however, will need to deliver better goaltending than what the Rangers have received in recent games.
It has already been well documented that Shesterkin has hit a bit of a lull in what is a Vezina-calibre season, going 4-4-1 with a 3.11 GAA and an .886 save percentage in his last 10 games, while he gave up a couple of softies in the shootout loss to the Flyers.
Georgiev, meanwhile, is a wildcard in that you never know what you are going to get from the 26-year-old on a night-to-night basis, as his 3.11 GAA and .892 save percentage proves.
Furthermore, since March 29, the Rangers rank 29th in overall save percentage and 30th in five-on-five save percentage. Not what you want.
This is Captain Obvious but you won’t win a playoff round with goaltending that bad so, whether it is Shesterkin or Georgiev tonight, it benefits the Rangers to tidy up things around the net and get back the elite goaltending that was a constant up until March.