Sunday, June 13, 2021

Igor Shesterkin’s hot play is complicating Rangers’ goalie rotation

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At the risk of disrupting his team’s current groove, their very first of the season, Rangers coach David Quinn has a crucial decision to make regarding who will be in nets against the Islanders on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Quinn could opt to ride with rookie Igor Shesterkin, who is coming off his third-straight win — and a convincing one at that. Or, he could turn to Alexandar Georgiev, whose turn was skipped in Quinn’s initial alternating plan because he wanted to rest the Bulgarian netminder Thursday after an eventful 48 hours.

As of Friday, Quinn said he hadn’t made a final decision, but that the coaching staff was taking all factors into consideration.

“Obviously, the game’s on Monday, so we haven’t really talked much about it,” Quinn said after Friday’s practice. “We’ll talk more about those things on Sunday with [goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] and I and the staff.

So that’ll be a decision we’ll make on Sunday.”

After starting the season 0-2-1, Shesterkin appears to have finally found some confidence following wins against the Sabres, Penguins and Capitals. Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Washington, in which he made 31 saves on 33 shots, was easily his most impressive performance of the season.

Igor ShesterkinGetty Images

The 25-year-old stymied six of seven shots from Alex Ovechkin and three from Tom Wilson. He tracked the puck well, and for the first time all season, truly gave the Rangers a chance to win the game.

The question now is: Will Shesterkin need to continue playing in order to keep his hot hand ablaze? That’s a prediction Quinn will have to make while deciding who will get the starting nod on Monday.

Following Thursday’s win, Shesterkin was asked if he feels he needs to keep playing to remain sharp.

“Whether I start every game, or every other game, that’s the coach’s decision,” he said.

But Shesterkin was lit up for five goals in the season-opening loss to the Islanders, while Georgiev has been a personal nightmare for the Rangers’ New York rivals nearly his entire career.

Georgiev followed up the 4-0 season-opening loss with a shutout over the Islanders in the second game of the season. It was the second time he had blanked them in his career, following a 29-save performance during the 2018-19 season.

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Last year, Georgiev went 3-1 against the Islanders with a 2.81 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. His only other loss to Barry Trotz’s team was when he relieved Henrik Lundqvist in a 7-5 defeat in 2018-19, bringing his career record against them to 6-2.

It’s no guarantee that Quinn’s goalie decision will make or break the Rangers on Monday, but it certainly can affect the good thing they’ve got going right now.

And Shesterkin has made quite a case that he currently owns that net.

“Personally I have not changed anything, I’ve been working diligently with my coaches, each and every practice on small details,” Shesterkin said.

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