Combative Igor Shesterkin returns with solid win for Rangers
As the New York Rangers push toward their ultimate goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time since the 1993-94 season, the spotlight intensifies on their cornerstone between the pipes, Igor Shesterkin.
Returning to the crease for his first start since Jan. 26, Shesterkin made 28 saves in a 4-3 overtime victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.
“I thought Igor looked good,” coach Peter Laviolette said, noting the difficulty of the goals scored against him and highlighting his critical saves.
“If you look at the goals, there was not a lot you can do on them. … thought he made some big saves.”
Combative Igor Shesterkin comes back with win for Rangers
Shesterkin also provided the Rangers a “little bit of life and jam,” per Laviolette, when he took part in an altercation with Chicago forward Nick Foligno late in the first period. The feisty Shesterkin received a two-minute roughing minor, as did Foligno.
The sentiment of Shesterkin’s importance and the team’s role in supporting him was echoed by teammates.
“I think he played well tonight and we can do a better job of helping him out,” explained Mika Zibanejad, emphasizing the need for a collective effort to support their goalie.
Alexis Lafrenière also liked what he saw in Shesterkin’s performance, particularly highlighting his ability to make “big saves, especially when they were coming at us.”
For Shesterkin, this performance was not just about adding another win to the column, it was about setting the tone for the second half of his season.
January was a challenging month for Shesterkin. With a record of 4-5-1, a goals-against average of 3.24 and a save percentage of .863, his performance fell short of the high standards he has set for himself and the expectations the Rangers organization has for him.
Jonathan Quick has provided a spark for the Rangers with a remarkable 12-4-2 record, 2.27 GAA and a .919 save percentage this season. But his age (38) presents a consideration for the team’s management. Overworking Quick could lead to issues down the stretch, making Shesterkin’s resurgence all the more critical.
As the Rangers navigate the final two months of the regular season, Shesterkin’s performance will be a key factor in their success. His ability to rebound from a tough January and step up his game will not only boost his confidence, but solidify the Rangers’ status as serious Stanley Cup contenders, as well.