Igor Shesterkin heating up for Rangers after rough patch
The New York Rangers closed out 2023 on a great note as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-1. While the focus of the night was on the play of Artemi Panarin and company, Igor Shesterkin had himself another great night in the cage, making 34 saves on 35 shots. It is safe to say that Shesterkin has returned to form after struggling for a period of time.
Coming back from a brief injury, he did not look like the Vezina-winning goaltender that we have all been accustomed to. He was letting up more than usual, and his numbers had slipped in comparison to his usual rate of performance, which seemed to always have him in the conversation for the best goalie in the NHL.
In the first nine games since coming back from injury, Shesterkin had a record of 4-5-0. In the five losses, he surrendered 6,5,6,4, and 7 goals. The lowest point for the 28-year-old goaltender came against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 7-3 loss marked a three-game losing streak for Shesterkin. In the three losses, his save percentages were .857, .862, and .793, against Toronto.
No one was more upset about his play than Shesterkin himself.
“I don’t know what to say to you,” he shrugged after the loss to the Leafs. “Sorry.”
Igor Shesterkin heating up
At this point in time, questions were beginning to become more relevant regarding Shesterkin’s play going forward. People even began to doubt him, as his numbers were far lower than in past seasons. He has since put those notions to bed.
In the last five games, Shesterkin has completely turned it around. He is currently riding a five-game win streak and has only allowed eight goals in those games. This has not been just an instance of increased performance. Shesterkin’s statistics in the last five games are sensational.
In this five-game win streak, Shesterkin has made 139 saves on 147 shots. He has a save percentage of .946, and a goals against average of 1.58. These have been monumental wins for both him and the Blueshirts.
This recent stretch started with a 2-1 overtime win against the Boston Bruins. In the contest, Shesterkin was very impressive, making 21 saves and defeating one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. It was a great way to bounce back and boost his confidence after the 7-3 loss to Toronto.
He followed that up by getting revenge on those very same Maple Leafs. Shesterkin and the Rangers were looking for payback in this contest, and they got exactly that. Shesterkin made 31 saves in the team’s 5-2 win just one week after the low point of his season.
His next contest was another overtime thriller where Shesterkin kept New York alive. Especially in the 3-on-3 overtime period, Igor made several heroic saves in order to keep the game going. The Rangers were able to find the game-winner shortly thereafter. It was Shesterkin’s third win in a row as he began to look like his old self.
In another game in which the Rangers were looking for revenge, Shesterkin came up big again. The Rangers were able to defeat Washington by a score of 5-1. In his fourth consecutive win, Shesterkin made 26 saves and had an incredible .963 save percentage. Just when it seemed like he couldn’t do better, he did.
To close out 2023, the Rangers went up against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second half of a back-to-back. In the win, Shesterkin was incredible once again. He made 34 saves in another 5-1 win for a save percentage of .971.
In this recent hot streak, Shesterkin’s numbers are starting to crawl up towards the area they have been at for so long. Earlier in the season, his save percentage hovered around .900. A far cry from his Vezina-winning .935 just two seasons ago. Now, he is up to a .911, and has been climbing each game.
It is a great sign for the Rangers to have Shesterkin improving his play at such a drastic rate. With Jonathan Quick continuing his impressive campaign as the backup, the Rangers have one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL.
As we welcome 2024, look for Igor Shesterkin to continue this fine play and lead New York to the playoffs.