The move to jettison defenseman Tony DeAngelo from the team earlier in the week has obviously forced the Rangers to reshape their defensive corps. But in a way, the move may end up changing things in the goaltending department, too.
DeAngelo was placed on waivers Sunday after reportedly getting into a fight with goaltender Alexandar Georgiev following Saturday’s overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He cleared waivers.
DeAngelo had been previously been warned by general manager Jeff Gorton, who said to reporters on Monday: "I told [DeAngelo] if his name came up in anything at all that he would be on waivers," Gorton said. "I felt like I had to stay true to my word, the organization's word."
The incident with Georgiev was the last straw.
But Georgiev’s immediate future, and that of Igor Shesterkin, who started in goal Thursday against the Washington Capitals, may have been affected by that incident, too.
According to reporting in The Athletic, the fight started because DeAngelo kept riding Georgiev about allowing Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal Saturday, and the goalie eventually punched DeAngelo. Georgiev did not practice Sunday, but served as backup to Shesterkin in Monday’s game. Based on the goalie rotation that coach David Quinn announced late last week he’d be using for the short term, Georgiev should have started Thursday against the Capitals.
But the coach decided to go with Shesterkin against Washington. Quinn said Wednesday, Georgiev "has been through a lot in the last 48 hours’’ and maybe needed another day or two before starting again. And Shesterkin had played well in Monday’s 3-1 win over Pittsburgh and had won his last two starts.
Quinn said Wednesday the plan would be to get Georgiev back in goal for the next game, which is Monday against the Islanders – a team Georgiev has dominated in his career. But the coach left open the possibility of scrapping the rotation altogether, if circumstances dictate.
"I have no idea what’s going to happen after [Thursday] night,’’ he said. "If something crazy happens, or Shesty does something that we feel will give us a better chance to win the next night, we’ll do that. But I don’t want to tie ourselves down to any commitment.’’
With Saturday’s game against the Devils postponed because New Jersey has so many players unavailable due to Covid protocols, the Rangers will have three days in between games. So if Georgiev doesn’t play Monday, then he will end up going a minimum 10 days between starts.
Given the fact Georgiev shut the Islanders out the last time he faced them, in the 5-0 win Jan. 16, it’s more than likely he will play Monday. But if Shesterkin played exceptionally against the Capitals, all bets would be off. And Quinn would have food for thought.
Shesterkin played poorly in the season-opening 4-0 loss to the Islanders and allowed multiple weak goals in his next two starts, against the Penguins in Pittsburgh Jan. 22 and 24. But he seemed to find his game after that, and after starting the season 0-2-1, with a 2.98 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage, Shesterkin won his next two starts. He entered Thursday’s game 2-2-1 with a 2.41 GAA and .906 save percentage.
Quinn has theorized that both goalies’ slow starts (Georgiev was 1-2-1, with a 3.27 GAA, one shutout and an .886 save percentage entering Thursday) had something to do with having to play without the safety net of franchise icon Henrik Lundqvist behind them this season. The coach suggested Thursday Shesterkin now seems to be growing in confidence.
"I think that position is so mental,’’ Quinn said. "Just talking about Shesty, I think his last two games have been good, and we’re hoping he builds on it.’’