New York Rangers take the Igor Shesterkin Show on the road, face Jets Sunday
When the New York Rangers return home next week from a four-game road trip that opens Sunday night, they might have a better idea of where they stand in the competitive Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers enter Saturday six points out of first place in the division and look to start the trip on a positive note when they visit the Winnipeg Jets. The trip also takes them through Minneapolis, St. Louis and Dallas before their next home game on March 15.
New York is seeking its third straight win and is 7-2-1 in its past 10 games.
Rangers take the Shesterkin Show on the road
After blowing a two-goal lead Wednesday before rallying for a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues, the Rangers picked up a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
Igor Shesterkin made 32 saves Friday and is 14-2-1 in his past 17 games. He has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his past nine starts, rising into the conversation for the Vezina and Hart Trophies.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Gerard Gallant said shaking his head. “I mean how many great saves on Grade A chances [the Devils] got. The rush saves, the breakaway saves, he’s unbelievable.”
This season the 26 year-old netminder is 27-6-3. He’s also been running red-hot going 14-2-1 in his last 17 starts and earning a point in eight of the his last nine appearances (7-1-1).
Per NHL PR, Igor’s 940 SV% is the second highest at this time in the season (min 36 GP) to Jacques Plante, who posted a .942 SV% with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1970-71.
Shesterkin’s SV% also ranks first overall in the league and his 1.96 GAA in good for second behind Bruins’ Jeremy Swayman’s 1.95 GAA.
Dating back to last season, Shesterkin’s .929 SV% is the highest among all goalies in the NHL with at least 50 games players. His 2.27 GAA ranks third overall for the same time span.
New York Rangers in good position
His performances are allowing the Rangers to get points even on nights when they are not at their sharpest. Shesterkin’s Friday effort was rewarded as Filip Chytil netted the tiebreaking goal in the second and Chris Kreider scored his 36th goal in the third period. Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring for the Rangers.
“I just think we look flat at times and then we look good at times,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “I hate to critique a win, but I know we can be better than that.”
Despite Gallant’s feedback, the Rangers entered the weekend with a comfortable eight-point margin in the playoff race with 27 games remaining, six points behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes and two behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
According to Money Puck, the Rangers chances of making the playoffs are at 99.5%.
Jets fighting for playoff spot
Unlike the Rangers, the Jets are fighting just to stay in contention for a wild-card spot. Winnipeg began Saturday in 12th place in the Western Conference, six points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild-card spot.
Following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday, Winnipeg has earned just 19 points in the past 21 games (7-9-5 since Jan. 18), a stretch that includes losing streaks of six and four games.
Yet, the Jets are seeking to get a point in a fourth straight game for the first time since November, scoring a combined 13 goals in wins over the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens before letting a late lead get away in regulation Friday.
“It’s frustrating that we had a pretty solid game, had a lot of chances and, obviously, we liked this one more than we liked the two in Dallas,” Winnipeg center Adam Lowry said, alluding to a pair of earlier losses to the Stars. “So, it’s frustrating but you get a point and you got to regroup. We got to get ready for New York.”
Paul Stastny scored twice against the Stars as the Jets had 42 shots on goal.
“I think, if we’re going to lose, I’d rather lose like this rather than two weeks ago where we are getting outshot two to one and we find a way to get a point,” Stastny said. “We had our chances.”
The teams are meeting for the first time since Kreider scored twice in New York’s 4-1 win at Winnipeg on Feb. 11, 2020.
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–Field Level Media contributed to this report