David Quinn has two weeks to decide who his starting goalie will be for game one of the playoffs
In today’s NHL it is not uncommon to play multiple goaltenders throughout a season. Coaches want to limit the wear on their starter, and keep them fresh heading into the grind known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What you rarely see these days is a team with three goalies on the roster. Three goalies that are all capable of being your number one. That’s the problem New York Rangers head coach, David Quinn is facing in training camp. With the team having to prepare for a playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes, it would be wise for Quinn to lock his guy down soon.
Let’s take a look at the three contenders for the starting spot and create a pros and cons list to better clarify the very stripped down thought process that David Quinn will have to go through in making a decision by late July.
Henrik Lundqvist, the known quantity
This man clearly needs no introduction to the casual and die-hard Rangers fans. Lundqvist has been a staple in the franchise for the better part of 15 years and is arguably the best goaltender the franchise has ever seen.
Lundqvist’s playoff history has shown that when the pressure and the stage gets bigger, he rises to the occasion and becomes a brick wall. His career playoff save percentage of .922 is 12th all time among goalies that have played at least 50 postseason games.
When his team is on the brink of elimination, Lundqvist only gets better. In his last 21 elimination games Lundqvist is 15-6 with a superb 1.90 goals against average, and even more impressive, in his last 12, Hank is 11-2 with a 1.25 goals against average.
While we would all like to believe that 2014 Henrik Lundqvist is going to walk through the doors in Toronto and absolutely steal the show like he has in every postseason he has been a part of, the reality is, the 37-year-old goaltender has been on the decline for the better part of four seasons. His GAA is increasing every year as is his save percentage. While the experience and pedigree is there from “The King”, the talent and skill might be a step behind the younger goaltenders.
Alexandar Georgiev, the wild card
For me, the 24-year-old Bulgarian netminder is the biggest wild card for David Quinn. Georgiev has had two full seasons in the NHL where he has played over 33 games (obviously would have played more this season) and posted a .912 save percentage and a sub 3.00 goals against average at 2.98.
Grorgiev struggled going into the stoppage with a 3-2-1 record over his last 6 starts with a 3.33 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. This is where his wild card factor comes into play because he is just as likely to put together a stretch run like he did at the start of the 2020 calendar year where over an 11 game stretch he posted a .924 save percentage and 2.27 goals against average.
Unlike Lundqvist, Georgiev and later Igor Shesterkin do not have the playoff experience that their elder has. The numbers and eye test for Georgiev are promising but we have still yet to see him perform under the true pressure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There is a lot to like about this young goaltender but enough concerns and red flags to not make him my clear cut starter for the restart.
Igor Shesterkin, the great unknown
The new “kid” on the block set the NHL ablaze after making his first start in January. Shesterkin’s first 12 games in a Rangers uniform went about as well as Rangers fans could hope. The 24-year old Russian was dominant before the stoppage this season posting a record of 10-2 with ridiculous, but small sample size, .932 save percentage and 2.52 goals against average.
Shesterkin is not shy to the big stage either. At SKA St. Petersberg of the KHL, Shesterkin’s playoff numbers were just as dazzling as his regular season stats. In 16 KHL playoff games, Shesterkin boasts a .948 save percentage, and 1.75 goals against average.
My issue with starting Shesterkin is similar to that of Georgiev, just with a little less concern. While performing in the KHL playoffs is a very encouraging sight to see, it’s still the KHL. The pressure and expectations for Shesterkin have not phased him yet, but before he gets the seal of approval, he needs to perform at the games biggest and brightest stage.
Who is the Rangers man in net?
If I were David Quinn, my choice would be Igor Shesterkin. Getting postseason experience no matter what the situation is so valuable and if Shesterkin is to be the goaltender of the future for the New York Rangers, he needs to be exposed to these pressure games as early as possible to prepare him for down the road.
Don’t be fooled, David Quinn knows who’s in the blue paint for him when the qualifying round starts on August 1st, it’s just a matter of when we will know.
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