Igor Shesterkin is coming in the favorite to start for the Rangers against Carolina
Nothing Given. Everything Earned.
That will be the guiding principle for David Quinn and the Rangers once Phase 3 opens next month and training camp battles begin. The expectation is that all three goalies will have a chance to separate themselves and earn the right to start game one of the qualifying round against the Carolina Hurricanes. Who will emerge as the #1? Let’s take it one goalie at a time.
The Rangers 24 year old back-up had a solid season going before the pause. In 34 games he was 17-14-2 with a .910 SV% and a 3.04 GAA. Respectable numbers for sure, but not enough coming into camp to be declared the favorite. Georgiev also struggled late in the year losing 3 of his last 4 starts and giving up 5 goals twice in that stretch. Finally, his limited career numbers against Carolina are terrible with a 1-1 record magnified by a bloated 5.07 GAA and a woeful .880 SV%.
The Rangers icon has a fire in his belly and wants his starting job back. In a recent interview with Johan Rylander, Lundqvist was blunt when asked about his playing time and being regulated as an honorary backup most games. “Obviously it is disappointing to not play as much as you want. That’s where the disappointment is,” Henrik said. “It’s more… not on them (the Rangers), but more that it became as it became. And if I not had been disappointed, then I sell myself short. I want to play, to deliver at a high level. If I don’t, I will be disappointed.” The King finished with the following statement: “I have to fight – if I want to go back and have that place in the net.”
At 38 years old, Henrik is going to have to put up some fight to wrestle the job away from Igor Shesterkin. While his numbers this year were decent, they are a far cry from what we are used to from Lundqvist. An under .500 record at 10-12-3 with a .905 SV% and a very un-Kingly 3.16 GAA. However, against the Carolina Hurricanes this season he was Classic Hank with a perfect 3-0 record, a 2.33 GAA, and a remarkable .947 SV%. Henrik Lundqvist is 33-12-1 for his career against the Canes. Who knows, maybe past is prologue for the legend that has manned the nets for the Blueshirts for the last 15 seasons.
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When it comes to who is most likely to win the starting job against Carolina, The Czar has supplanted The King. While he has only seen limited action this season since his call up, he has been by far the Rangers clear cut best. He has lived up to his billing as a future #1 coming over from the KHL and then dominating the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
This season, Shesterkin basically helped propel the Rangers into playoff contention with stellar netminding. The 24 year old posted a 10-2 record in 12 games with a 2.52 GAA and a whopping .932 SV%. He did so in impressive fashion earning a 7 game winning streak that included a 5-2 win against Carolina. He also faced over 40 shots in 5 of his 12 starts, winning every single contest.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Rangers will look to Igor first when it comes to starting position. Henrik Lundqvist will likely win the back-up role but it will take more than a monumental effort to win the starting job in a short camp. It would likely also require Shesterkin to have an awful showing coming back from the pause. However, thus far from what we’ve seen it doesn’t appear the Rangers new #1 won’t be ready and up for the challenge.
All stats from hockey-reference.com