Igor Shesterkin ‘could play better’ and set Rangers up for more playoff success

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Igor Shesterkin is a big reason the New York Rangers swept the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round. But the All-Star goalie still believes he can bring his game to another level in these playoffs.

“I could play better,” Shesterkin said after Game 4. “But what’s important is we won tonight and won the series.”

Through four games in the postseason, Shesterkin is 4-0 with a .931 save percentage and 1.75 goals-against average. He was at his best when the Capitals pushed hard trying to tie both Games 3 and 4 in Washington, making some incredible stops along the way.

This is already quite an improvement from Shesterkin’s numbers in the regular season, when he posted a .913 save percentage and 2.58 GAA., though he did play his best hockey down the stretch of the season before the playoffs started,

Even still, he thinks he can elevate his game. His coach and teammates tend to think the 28-year-old goalie is doing just fine, thank you.

“I thought he was really good,” explained Rangers coach Peter Laviolette. “He was on point. Even (in Game 4) when the game is hanging in the balance, and he comes across and makes that huge save. He seems to be tracking everything really well. He seems to be seeing the whole ice surface, not just the puck or the play. I thought he was excellent.”

Related: Popular rookie among Rangers unsung heroes in first-round sweep

Igor Shesterkin was Rangers standout in first round of playoffs against Capitals

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With the performance that Shesterkin provided in the first round, it would be impressive to see him raise his game to an even higher level. He let in two goals or fewer in three of the four games, and has now gone 27 straight playoff games without giving up four goals. The last time he surrendered four or more was May 9, 2022, in Game 4 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Should this streak continue, opposing teams will find it hard to defeat New York four times in a span of seven games. Additionally, his pedigree of playoff pwrformances at Madison Square Garden is equally impressive. In the 4-3 win in Game 2 against the Capitals, Shesterkin allowed more than two goals on home ice for the first time in 10 postseason games. Having home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, it is safe to say New York is set up for success if Shesterkin keeps rolling along at that pace.

“I think (Shesterkin) obviously helped us out there,” explained Vincent Trocheck following Game 4. “He is a part of the team and whenever we do have a little bit of a let down, he’s back there to save our butts.”

That has been the biggest asset of having Shesterkin backstop the Rangers. While he did not see a high volume of shots, 100 total through four games, he did make the important saves when the Rangers needed him to. He was also a huge help on the penalty kill, which rolled at a clip of 88.2 percent in the first round.

“I think the penalty kill did a great job and I think Shesterkin, especially, did a great job,” said Chris Kreider.

The praise for Shesterkin does not stop there. Nearly everyone has something positive to say about the Russian netminder.

“He’s been there for us all year,” mentioned Mika Zibanejad. “We know what kind of goalie he is. To see him play the way he did was huge for us, especially in the moments where they have a pushback. I think that’s something that we’ve been extremely lucky with all year.”

As the Rangers await their second-round opponent (likely the Carolina Hurricanes), they know that Shesterkin will need to remain sharp as the playoffs continue on. Should he find that extra in his game that he has talked about, the Rangers are going to be a hard out, no matter the opposition.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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