New York Rangers need to see more from veteran Jonathan Quick

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Quick is expected to get the start tonight for the New York Rangers in their preseason tilt against the New York Islanders. After a so-so showing against the Boston Bruins last Sunday, the Rangers need to see more from Igor Shesterkin’s new backup.

In recent years, Rangers fans have had front row seats to backup goaltenders who were developing into starters — as well as backup goalies who’ve had long (and in some cases, illustrious) careers, but are no longer likely to command starting contracts in the NHL.

The most recent backup goalies have included Alexandar Georgiev, Jaroslav Halak and now Jonathan Quick, who notably led the Los Angeles Kings past the Rangers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

Related: Examining the role of Rangers backup

The tricky balance for a backup goalie

For backup goalies in the NHL, the role is generally one of stop-start, stop-start. Unless the primary goaltender suffers an injury that leads to IR, backups are generally dropped into about 25-30 games of an 82-game season and expected to keep momentum going if their team is playing well.

Yet, unless a young goalie is a top prospect, there’s a solid chance he’ll have to play the backup role when he first gets called up to the NHL. Questions about how to develop a netminder into a starting caliber goalie are always at the fore; and most recently in the case of Georgiev, the Rangers had Shesterkin waiting in the wings as Henrik Lundqvist’s successor.

Alexandar Georgiev run with Rangers

Georgiev played to mixed reviews over five seasons for the Blueshirts, with an overall .908 SV% in 129 games, and an overall 2.94 GAA.

The young goalie’s contractual rights were traded to the Colorado Avalanche in July 2022. After his first full season with the Avalanche, Bleacher Report has Georgiev ranked 10th best among starting goaltenders going into the current season. Of even greater note is that the 27-year-old came in seventh in Vezina Trophy voting last season.

Many asserted the Bulgarian-Russian goaltender would perform better in a starting role; and they turned out, at least so far, to be correct.

But NHL teams often go the route of choosing a veteran goalie for the backup role. Development, in that case, isn’t an issue; yet a different issue then looms large — how can a veteran netminder stay fresh, and not go stale, between games in a season in which he’ll probably play only about 25-30% of the games?

Veteran goalies as backups in net: Jaroslav Halak

The trials and tribulations of Halak last season were pretty representative of what most teams can expect from a veteran backup goaltender, even one who’s had success in the past.

By the time Halak played his first game as a Ranger, he was 37 years old and had been in the NHL, on and off, since the 2006-07 season. The veteran played for six different NHL teams before arriving in the Big Apple. Blueshirt fans were very familiar with Halak, however, as three of the six teams for whom he played in the past are in the Metropolitan Division. And he’d had some big wins against the Rangers in his career, primarily with the New York Islanders.

Halak’s brief journey with the Rangers started off a bit tenuously, and crowds at Madison Square Garden were not enthralled with seeing him in net. Over the course of last season, however, he had a decent .903 SV% and 2.72 GAA in 25 games.

The challenge for aging goalies is clear: if even younger goalies have trouble staying fresh and shaking off the rust when only playing about one game a week, how is a former No. 1 supposed to stay sharp in that situation? There are routines that work for remaining in shape and staying as game ready as possible. But it’s a little like being a pinch hitter coming off the bench in a baseball game — it takes a special talent.

What can we expect from veteran Jonathan Quick?

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Quick’s first appearance on the ice this preseason for the Rangers was in their initial exhibition game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden, in which he played approximately 30 minutes, giving way to Louis Domingue (currently third goalie on the depth chart) for the final half of the game.

The 37-year-old allowed two goals early, and a third goal not much later. Certainly the third goal, to all appearances, was one he would have liked to have back — but an argument can be made for each of the first two goals, as well. Let’s face it, Quick looked rusty.

It’s easy, after one appearance in preseason, to already rain down the virtual boo’s on the primary backup for the season. But even though he hasn’t been peak Jonathan Quick for several years now, he deserves a chance to prove all the postseason experience and success from the past will count for something, when he’s in the spotlight at Madison Square Garden.

A three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, Quick understands competing in big game situations. With the Rangers, he joins another Cup-contending team. The veteran’s GAA has been steadily on the rise over the past three years, but his save percentage has been ping ponging since at least the 2018-19 season. All of this to say, the Rangers knew what they were getting when they signed Quick. Eyes wide open.

“I’m looking at Igor and Jonathan a little bit more (in camp),” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You’re talking about two goalies in the league that are really good at what that they do. What I love is the work ethic they bring to the table. They compete on shots and drills, to me that has a ripple effect on your team which is led by your goaltenders.”

Other possible Rangers backup goalies

Of course, there’s always Domingue to turn to in a pinch, in case Quick really doesn’t work out. Halak remains an unsigned free agent, as well. Other veteran goaltenders somehow always seem to become available.

The hope, naturally, is that the Blueshirts don’t have to turn to one of their prospects whom they don’t yet deem as ready. Dylan Garand is getting a look in training camp and played the second half of Tuesday’s exhibition game. Olaf Lindbom has already been cut from camp and assigned to the AHL Wolf Pack. It’s unlikely either will be given a chance this year at the NHL level.

The unspoken implication of the Rangers signing Quick is if he remains shaky and doesn’t steady himself the way Halak did last season, Sherterkin may have to shoulder an even larger part of the goaltending duties than he has in the past.

Deborah Seymour grew up in New York City and studied in the City University of New York system for... More about Deborah Seymour

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