Last season, New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin was the talk of the town for his performance in his first 12 games of NHL hockey. As Henrik Lundqvist’s heir-apparent, big things were expected of the Russian prospect and he delivered playing behind a clearly flawed defense.
In 12 starts in 2019-20, Shesterkin posted a .932 Sv% and a 2.52 GAA against a workload of 36.79 SA60. Needless to say, those were sensational numbers, which recently prompted MSG Network’s Steve Valiquette to point out how many games Shesterkin stole for the Rangers last year on a recent broadcast. Valiquette also pointed out that the young Russian netminder has yet to truly steal a game for the Blueshirts this season.
Let’s start by getting the obvious out of the way. This is a unique, bizarre season unlike any other and we need to keep that in mind when analyze and evaluate the performance of established veterans like Mika Zibanejad and for newcomers like Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, and Shesterkin.
Shesterkin now has as many starts as he did last season, but has appeared in two more games and has manned the blue paint for 58 more minutes than he did last year. He has a .917 Sv% against an average workload of 28.81 SA60 and he has a record of 5-7-1 instead of a record of 10-2-0. But, we should never judge a goalie by their record. Shesterkin has allowed one more goal than he did last year after 12 starts, which is why his GAA (2.40) — another often misleading goalie stat — is better than it was last season.
The bottom line is that Shesterkin has faced fewer shots on goal and 1.65 fewer high-danger shots on goal per-60 at 5-on-5 than he saw last year. Interestingly enough, Shesterkin’s high-danger save percentage at 5-on-5 is identical to what it was last year (.857) but his base save percentage at 5-on-5 is down to .919 after being .931 last year. For some context, Alexandar Georgiev’s 5-on-5 save percentage this season is .927; it was .917 last year. That, along with some rough sledding on the penalty kill, is why Shesterkin’s overall numbers are down from where they were last year.
Shesterkin had a .915 Sv% while shorthanded last year and has a .865 Sv% this year. That’s a noteworthy difference especially because the Rangers are ranked sixth in the league with an 85.5% success rate on the penalty kill — it was a paltry 77.4% last year. His performance while shorthanded is definitely something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
So, Shesterkin’s been good but not quite as fantastic as he was last year. This season his GSAA/60 (goals saved above average per hour) is 0.11 in all situations, which is down from 0.73 GSAA/60. At evens, it’s down to 0.13 GSAA/60 from 0.56 GSAA/60. In a sample of 12 games that boils down to him allowing a goal or two that he didn’t allow last year because we know he’s not facing the kind of volume he saw last year.
Overall, he’s been the best goalie on the team — Georgiev has a .907 Sv% on the year. We shouldn’t lose sight of that or the fact he’s still technically a rookie. Shesterkin has allowed four goals in three of his 12 starts and is still searching for his shutout of the campaign. You’d like to see a little more consistency, but it’s hard to fault him for not living up to the 12-start sample he dazzled us with last year.
So, we’re still waiting for Shesterkin to “steal” a win and that’s fine, especially after 12 starts. There’s nothing alarming about his start to the season, especially when we consider the adjustments made to the penalty kill. All things considered, Igor has been Igor, and considering all the chaos surrounding this team, that is a beautiful thing.
Data courtesy of naturalstattrick.com.