GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Alexandar Georgiev has visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, but he has never been to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Georgiev will be a short walk away from his own sport's Hall on Saturday when he starts in goal for the Rangers against the Maple Leafs.
The last time Georgiev saw the Leafs . . . well, he saw too much of them and still put together a Hall of Fame-worthy performance.
Toronto fired 56 shots at Georgiev on his 23rd birthday on Feb. 10. Georgiev stopped 55 of them in a 4-1 victory at Madison Square Garden that still stands as one of the highlights of this Rangers season.
Georgiev set Rangers records for saves in a regulation game and saves at the Garden. On Saturday, the rookie will face the same team, but this time at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
“It’s a special building,” Georgiev said on Friday after practice. “The last time I played there, it was a lot of fun. A really great crowd. It’s going to be a very fun game to play in.”
Georgiev faced the Leafs in Toronto on Dec. 22 and made 31 saves in a 4-1 loss. That was before the 23-year-old Bulgarian began sharing time with future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist down the stretch and started showing the Rangers a glimpse of his future.
“I think he’s proven what he's capable of handling,” coach David Quinn said. “He’s been in some big pressure games against some very good teams and he’s done well."
Having the experience of the Feb. 10 game should help. But, as Georgiev said: "At the same time every game is different. I don’t think they will get 56 shots again. I hope not.”
So does Quinn.
“It’s funny,” Quinn said. “And I don’t ever want to take anything away from him. He played great. But they had 25 shots on the power play. We’ve got to clean that up, obviously. I was talking to [Mats Zuccarello] probably a week before he got traded and we were talking about that particular game. He said, 'You know, Georgie played well, but 5-on-5 it never felt that way [that the Rangers were being badly outplayed].' They were shooting pucks, they had a lot of great chances. Again, I’m not trying to take anything away from him, but 5-on-5 we actually played pretty well that game. Hopefully, we can do some things better on the penalty kill to not allow them to get 25 shots on the power play.”
Notes & quotes: Marc Staal (lower body injury) returned to practice and may play Saturday, Quinn said. Chris Kreider (lower body injury) and Jesper Fast (shoulder) did not practice and did not make the trip. The Rangers haven’t announced if they are shutting down Fest for the rest of the season, but Quinn said on Thursday they were “certainly leaning in that direction.”