Igor Shesterkin may be biggest beneficiary of Rangers new system
Igor Shesterkin became the fastest New York Rangers goaltender to reach the 100 win mark by beating the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 in the season opener on Thursday. The 27 year-old did it in just his 159th career game, which stands seventh quickest all time in the NHL (minimum 160 games).
Coming into the new year, Shesterkin opened up about the difficulties he experienced mentally last season. Mind you, it was a year where he posted a 37-13-8 record, with a 2.48 GAA, and a .916 save percentage.
Vince Mercogliano, who covers the team for Loud and USA Today, spoke to Forever Blueshirts about Shesterkin’s attitude.
“He wasn’t in a great place for a lot the season,” Mercogliano said. “Just in dealing with him in the room– very distant and didn’t want to do many interviews. I also really didn’t see him interact with his teammates and was very frustrated at times. It was evident on the ice as you’d see him in practice slamming his stick after giving up a goal. It seemed like he was really beating himself up, but in this camp, the vibes have been much different.”
That is largely due to Shesterkin’s positive disposition at the start of camp in September.
“I’m so excited about a new season,” Shesterkin said. “I missed hockey. I missed my teammates. So happy to talk about it.”
Igor Shesterkin fastest Rangers goalie to 100 wins
The Rangers knew before the puck dropped on the 2023-24 campaign that one of their most important players would be Igor Shesterkin.
Time and time again, Shesterkin has bailed his squad out after numerous defensive lapses over the better part of four seasons. However, new head coach Peter Laviolette is demanding an adherence to his defensive structure in all three zones, which may make Shesterkin’s its biggest beneficiary.
In last night’s game, Igor needed to make only 24 saves on 25 shots to secure the milestone. A majority of those shots were clear-sighted and from the perimeter as the Rangers defenders committed to clogging lanes and eventually blocked 23 shots.
“The penalty kill was absolutely courageous the way they blocked shots,” Laviolette noted. “It’s one game and there were positives to pull from– the guys played really hard.”
More important than the blocked shots, the Rangers relinquished only 5 high danger chances throughout the contest. Rewind just a season ago, and it seemed like the Rangers would give that up in a period.
While this is only one game under Laviolette, a season opener as well, there’s a lot of promising takeaways. The Rangers did not give up the blue-line easily like they have in the past. In addition, they managed the neutral zone beautifully, including two turnovers that led to goals by Alexis Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin.
Ultimately, the Rangers would be served well to continue this commitment to defense as a five-man unit. It makes sense when you have an established goalie who’s already captured one Vezina Trophy in his young, but brilliant career to date.