Rangers need Igor Shesterkin to find his magic again

Rangers have received brilliance at the nets from Igor Shesterkin so regularly that it can seem like five alarms fire when the keeper stubs his toe.

There has been some smoke around the keeper and the club of late, perhaps a reminder not to take the club’s net-superiority for granted. We’ve all probably done this before and marveled at Henrik Lundqvist’s peaceful transition of power to Shesterkin as if everything were preordained.

The Blueshirts have taken a bit of a hiatus in their quest to secure their first place in the playoffs since 2017 after losing four of their last six games (2-3-1) to clubs tied 3-4 on Sunday the flyers in the garden lost in the shootout.

Probably not entirely coincidentally, Shesterkin took a break in his campaign almost simultaneously to move his No. 31 to the pinwheel ceiling, right next to where The King’s 30 is on display in the Garden. Shesterkin is allowed, just as Lundqvist was allowed his rare dips.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to process when Shesterkin gives up a goal that would qualify as a 10 on the 1-to-10 softie meter, like he did 5:54 in the first half of that game when Cam Yorks 55- The foot from the left sailed over the keeper’s left shoulder and gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

Igor Shesterkin
Igor Shesterkin fought the Flyers again.
Robert Sabo

That one stuck in the memory even when Shesterkin stopped Hayden Hodgson on a breakaway just 40 seconds after Philadelphia took a 7:26 lead with two on Owen Tippett’s goal from a neutral zone turnover and a mismatch.

The goalkeeper restored order by stopping Tippett twice at breakaways before denying Morgan Frost alone in extra time – but still the memory of the bad guy was not erased even as Rangers scored three goals after just 44 seconds fallen 3-0 into the third to send the match to OT.

Rangers led the league in both overall save ratio and five-for-five save ratio through March 9. But while they’ve been 8-5-1 ever since, the Blueshirts are 29th in overall savings and 30th (better than just the Red Wings). and Devils) in a five-to-five save percentage. That’s shocking. Does it have to be said that no one can count on winning the playoffs like that?

Shesterkin has made nine starts as of March 10, going 4-4-1 with a 3.11 GAA and an .886 percentage that seems like typos. They are not. And while the keeper still had more than the required number of messes left by his teammates to clean up, the shaky goals began to pile up.

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Indeed, the 26-year-old appears to have had some trouble chasing pucks through traffic, having made the ability one of his major assets during the first five months of the season. As a result, there were more loose pucks around the net on the early saves. There were more second chances. Maybe part of that is fatigue. Maybe part of it is just remembering that the season is long and the man is human.

Shesterkin rarely does his own horn. He’s routinely knocked out praise as well as deflecting first shots into corners and out of the way for a long time. It doesn’t matter if he fired 40 or more shots in a game. The goalkeeper regularly praises his teammates for their commitment. He did so that night, when he conceded the only goal of the shootout to Kevin Hayes in the top third of the inning.

Igor Shesterkin defends the net during Rangers' loss to the Flyers.
Igor Shesterkin defends the net during Rangers’ loss to the Flyers.
Robert Sabo

But Shesterkin had no interest – or patience – in evaluating his work at this final stage. “I don’t want to talk about my game,” he said.

A while later, when asked if he was frustrated, the keeper only explained a little. “I’m a little frustrated,” he said. “You really want to keep winning, but I’ll keep working on my game.”

The Blueshirts are in Newark on Tuesday to take on the Devils, who beat them 7-4 in New Jersey on March 22, before the Penguins come to town on Thursday. There’s a chance Alex Georgiev will get the New Jersey assignment so Shesterkin can train for a few days before his next start.

The magic number for a place in the playoffs is eight points. But after 70 games of the season, we all know what Rangers’ magic number is … or what it needs to be for the team to dream impossible dreams.

This number is 31. Rangers need Igor Shesterkin to find his magic again


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