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Igor Shesterkin’s competitiveness got him through Rangers fights

Igor Shesterkin reflexively shook his head, indicating that he didn’t want to talk about it.

The Rangers star goalie had just been asked about the news that after his first full 82 regular games, he had been named a Vezina Trophy finalist and Hart Trophy finalist — NHL awards bestowed on the league’s top goaltender and league, respectively. were awarded his MVP of the season.

“Right now it doesn’t matter to me,” Shesterkin said after making 31 saves in Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday night to force Sunday’s Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. “The regular season is over. Only playoff games at the moment.”

That’s the competitive spirit that everyone who’s met Shesterkin in his hockey career speaks of. It’s his price-conscious mentality that the rest of his Rangers teammates feed on.

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Igor Shesterkin
AP

Still, there have been some hiccups this postseason. Shesterkin allowed the stage to get too big for him in Games 3 and 4 at the PPG Paints Arena, where the jeering fans seemed to get a little in his head. He admitted it was difficult. After all, Shesterkin’s playoff résumé is only seven games long as of Sunday night (not including his only game in the 2020 bubble playoffs).

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As formidable as his NHL-leading .935 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average was, among goaltenders with at least 50 starts, the playoffs are where legacies are made. And in his first-ever legitimate postseason streak, Shesterkin lost two out of three games along the way.

The Rangers before him certainly played a big part, but there were times when Shesterkin didn’t look at all like he did in the regular season. On the other hand, he made 79 saves in the treble overtime loss in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden.

As for his thoughts on the fans in Pittsburgh shouting ‘IIII-GORRR!’ Chants on a timer of this series, Shesterkin appears to have already moved on after winning Game 6 there.

“If they say ‘Igor,’ I just say ‘Okay,'” he said.

His Rangers teammates took all responsibility for the team’s performances in Games 3 and 4, where Shesterkin was drawn in both games as the Penguins surpassed them 14-6. Gerard Gallant didn’t hesitate to confirm Shesterkin would be back in the net for Game 5 as he is the “best goalie in the league,” the Rangers head coach said.

Shesterkin stressed that he thanked his coach for believing in him as he reflected on how he shrugged off Games 3 and 4. He said once a game ends he just tries to forget about it, win or lose.

NHL
New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin
AP

“This is Igor,” Chris Kreider said after Game 6. “He’s a competitor who’s done all year for us. Did it at every level he played at. He fights, he does. He’s been our best player all year and he’s still our best player.”

Artemi Panarin added after Saturday’s training session: “We have full faith in him and he has full faith in himself.”

Shesterkin laid the foundation for a legacy in the NHL. The next step is the consistent challenge in the playoffs.

“None of us were happy with how things were going with our team and it was more our team than Igor,” Gallant said. “Like I said, there were some deflection hits he didn’t like, we didn’t like it, but overall he was outstanding. I mean, he’s our MVP. We always talk about it, he’s really healthy and very solid. So we’re very comfortable with our goalkeeping, that’s for sure.”

https://nypost.com/2022/05/15/igor-shesterkins-competitiveness-got-him-through-rangers-struggles/ Igor Shesterkin’s competitiveness got him through Rangers fights

JOE HERNANDEZ

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