The New York Rangers goalie carousel has been spinning since January 7, with Igor Shesterkin, Alexandar Georgiev, and Henrik Lundqvist rotating on and off with frequency like patrons at a dull amusement park. The order in which starts were handed out seemed as random as the results of a roulette wheel spin, but for the foreseeable future it appears head coach David Quinn is putting all of his chips on 31.
I asked David Quinn if it's fair to call Igor Shesterkin the No. 1 goalie now: "Yeah, I mean, he's the No. 1 goalie tomorrow night." Then DQ praised his swagger, called him "a winner," said last night he'd use the G who's playing well, not worried about keeping 3 sharp. #Rangers— Brian Heyman (@bheyman99) February 10, 2020
Tuesday vs. the Winnipeg Jets will be Shesterkin’s second start in a row, and it is the second time he’s appeared in two games in a row this season. The line about not worrying about keeping three goalies sharp and using the goalie who is playing well would suggest that Igor is being given an extended opportunity to prove himself, and the opportunity coming now isn’t a surprising one. I know Quinn didn’t name Igor the No. 1, and that job by and large is still future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist’s to lose, but it is fair to say this is the start of a shift in how the team looks at its goaltending.
The rookie netminder has been sound in the six NHL games his appeared in, and he is the team’s future in goal. His line to date includes a record of 5-1-0, a 2.34 goals against average, a .933 SV%, a 5v5 SV% of .928, and a 4.36 GSAA in all situations.
Igor Shesterkin Game Log
It is important to note that these results are just a six game sample, but the goal for the rest of this season should be to to learn as much as they can about the heir apparent to succeed Lundqvist. The best way to evaluate him is to see how he handles the rigors of an NHL schedule where he’s playing more than he’s sitting.
Nice save by Igor on Matthews pic.twitter.com/ReRnTN2i7A— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) February 6, 2020
Beyond that, the Rangers are trying to win games, and they have a better shot of doing that by having their goalies get in a consistent rhythm than having each netminder tag in and out like The Fabulous Freebirds of NWA/WCW/AWA lore. There are only seven games left before the February 24 trade deadline, and the Blueshirts are going to try and win as many as possible, for better of for worse, to keep their playoff hopes alive.
According to Hockey Viz, the Rangers have a sadness rating — their chance of missing playoffs AND not picking in the top five of the draft — of 80%.
No one is telling the Rangers to tank, or give less than a 100% effort, but they are still in the part of their rebuild where it is important to amass assets and young talent. The last place the Rangers want to end up in is the dreaded middle, and that’s especially true in a draft as deep as the one that’ll be held in Montreal this June.
Following an asset accumulation strategy will help the team become better in the long run, and will optimize their odds of having a longer window once they are on the upswing again. But I recognize this is professional sports, and last year the team tried to win games, even though it was to their detriment. They did ultimately end up with the No. 2 pick, but that was an exception, not the rule. You want the team to develop a winning culture and have good morale, but they shouldn’t go out of their way to make a push unless it ends with them having a very high chance of winning the Stanley Cup.
The three-game road trip which starts tonight in Winnipeg, and will feature a back-to-back in Minnesota and Columbus on Thursday and Friday, could greatly impact the urgency in which the Rangers deal, or deal with their impending free agents. If the team falls further into the hole, they could get the selling process started 10 days before the start of the deadline. If they win all three games and the myriad of teams around them lose, the team could think some more.
It should be noted that when the team released their letter to the fans in 2018 they were 25-24-5 with 55 points, and three points out of the second Wild Card spot, so their position in the standings really shouldn’t impact whether or not they decide to sell.
Shesterkin being at the helm for the foreseeable future also presents the opportunity to see how he handles an increased workload. Last year I took a look at how European goalies acclimated to North America, and now is as good a time as any to take a look at what I wrote then as it touched on goalies such as Andrei Vasilevskiy, Sergei Bobrovsky, Tuukka Rask, and Frederik Andersen among others.
Career to date, the most games Shesterkin’s played in a regular season is 39 which was back in 2016-17, so between this year and next the Rangers will have to develop a manageable pace for him. He’s played in 25 AHL games, and six NHL games to date, and I certainly think by the time the year’s over he’ll have appeared in more than 39 total games.
The remaining 28 games are broken down like this in terms of games per week starting with this week in progress: 3 games, 4 games, 3 games, 4 games, 3 games, 3 games, 4 games, 4 games. Here’s a visual view if it’s easier for you to plot out starts that way.
This breakdown provides the Rangers an opportunity to give Shesterkin a stretch of games in which he could make multiple starts in a row, but there are five back-to-backs left on the schedule of which I could see him sitting out at least one game during each two-game set.
This year he’s only made back-to-back starts once, and that was when he was sent down to Hartford during the All-Star break. He did appear in back to back games on December 17 & 18, but that saw him get pulled in one game, and come in relief for Adam Huska in the other.
Igor Shesterkin AHL Game Log
|CHA @ HFD||10/5/2019||59:55:00||29||3||26||W||3.00||.897||0|
|SPR @ HFD||10/12/2019||59:48:00||18||1||17||W||1.00||.944||0|
|SPR @ HFD||10/18/2019||60:00:00||36||0||36||W||0.00||1.000||1|
|LAV @ HFD||10/25/2019||64:06:00||19||1||18||W||0.94||.947||0|
|HFD @ BRI||10/27/2019||62:25:00||30||1||29||W||0.96||.967||0|
|HFD @ LAV||10/30/2019||57:05:00||23||3||20||L||3.15||.870||0|
|HFD @ BEL||11/2/2019||63:23:00||36||4||32||OTL||3.79||.889||0|
|HER @ HFD||11/8/2019||59:27:00||23||1||22||W||1.01||.957||0|
|HFD @ PRO||11/10/2019||60:00:00||30||1||29||W||1.00||.967||0|
|HFD @ PRO||11/15/2019||63:23:00||37||3||34||OTL||2.84||.919||0|
|SYR @ HFD||11/20/2019||57:36:00||24||3||21||L||3.12||.875||0|
|HFD @ ROC||11/22/2019||60:00:00||38||4||34||L||4.00||.895||0|
|HFD @ LV||11/30/2019||62:43:00||27||2||25||OTL||1.91||.926||0|
|HFD @ SPR||12/6/2019||60:00:00||25||2||23||W||2.00||.920||0|
|HFD @ PRO||12/8/2019||59:49:00||33||1||32||W||1.00||.970||0|
|BNG @ HFD||12/11/2019||59:34:00||30||1||29||W||1.01||.967||0|
|LV @ HFD||12/13/2019||60:00:00||26||0||26||W||0.00||1.000||1|
|HFD @ CHA||12/17/2019||25:28:00||22||5||17||L||11.78||.773||0|
|HFD @ CHA||12/18/2019||39:55:00||20||3||17||ND||4.51||.850||0|
|PRO @ HFD||12/21/2019||60:00:00||31||0||31||W||0.00||1.000||1|
|PRO @ HFD||12/28/2019||60:00:00||31||1||30||W||1.00||.968||0|
|BRI @ HFD||12/31/2019||60:00:00||20||2||18||W||2.00||.900||0|
|HFD @ PRO||1/3/2020||60:00:00||28||1||27||W||1.00||.964||0|
|BRI @ HFD||1/24/2020||60:00:00||32||1||31||W||1.00||.969||0|
|LV @ HFD||1/25/2020||60:00:00||30||2||28||W||2.00||.933||0|
The remaining B2Bs include: 2/13 & 2/14 (road), 2/21 & 2/22 (road/home), 2/27 & 2/28 (road), 3/10 & 3/11 (road), and 4/1 & 4/2 (home/road). There’s the chance he gets an opportunity at a back-to-back at the NHL level during one of the above sequences, but based on history to date I think there will be a few occasions in which we could see Georgiev or Lundqvist getting the nod.
Ideally, of the 28 games left, Igor will appear in at least 14 of them. That would give him 20 total games on the year, and I feel that’s a good minimum number. Odds are it will be more or less, but let’s just use that number for now. How the remaining 14 are divided up after that is dependent on if there’s a move at the deadline, and it could also be impacted by whether or not Shesterkin is sent down ahead of the Calder Cup playoffs.
There’s no specific reason to split the other 14 games between Lundqvist and Georgiev equally, and there probably will be one netminder who plays more than the other. There’s also no longer a dire need to showcase Alexandar Georgiev, as the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the most logical suitors for him, went out and got Jack Campbell. Barring an injury, Toronto won’t have to make a deal for another goalie. There are other teams that could use Georgiev’s services, but at this point if he’s the odd man out a deal is more likely to happen in the offseason than in the next 13 days.
It has been reported that the team is very high on Georgiev, and they wont give him away, so there’s also a chance he hangs around next season.
Therefore a good chunk of his games could come after the deadline. How Lundqvist is handled is another story all together, and one frankly to be saved for another day.
For now though the team, and fans, are getting a look at Igor Shesterkin as the No. 1 goaltender. I know at the beginning of this story the quote I included from Quinn saw him stop just short of naming Igor “the No. 1” but we can assume that the net is his unless he’s unable to handle it.
How he reacts to the opportunity will give the team a better sense on how they need to approach their goaltending dilemma this offseason, and the urgency in which they need to address it. I don’t envy the decisions Jeff Gorton is going to have to make, and the time between now and the start of next season certainly will be more of a roller-coaster than a carousel.