News trickled out Thursday afternoon that NHL players were notified that training camps won’t open before July 10, so there’s still a long way to go before the league will be playing hockey again.
But whenever NHL camps do open again after hockey was paused March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rangers president John Davidson will be excited to see who emerges as David Quinn’s choice as the No. 1 goaltender for the Blueshirts’ play-in series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“This is going to be a coach’s decision,’’ Davidson, speaking on a conference call with reporters Thursday, said of the starting goalie against Carolina. “I think they’re going to watch and see how camp goes. This is going to be a battle.’’
“I can hardly wait till whenever the puck drops for training camp, just to watch.’’
The Rangers finished the regular season with three goaltenders: franchise icon Henrik Lundqvist and two 24-year-old Russians, rookie Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. When the season was paused, Shesterkin had established himself as the team’s No. 1 goaltender, having put together a 10-2 record, with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage after being called up from the minor leagues in early January. Georgiev (17-14-2, 3.04 GAA, .910 save percentage) had settled into the backup role, while Lundqvist (10-12-3, 3.16, .905), had fallen to the No. 3 spot.
But after two months of no games, coach David Quinn will have to see how all the goalies look when they return for training camp before he picks his starter for the best-of-five series against the Hurricanes. And he’ll have to seriously consider the fact that Lundqvist, the face of the franchise for 15 years, has dominated the Hurricanes in his career – 33-12-1, 2.00, .934 against them in his career – including 3-0 this season, with a .947 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average.
“That one game down in Raleigh (a 4-2 win Nov. 7, in which Lundqvist made 45 saves), he actually stole that game,’’ Davidson said of Lundqvist. “He was outstanding. It was the best game I saw him play all season long.
“But at the same time, we have two other young goalies that are very good,’’ he said. “I like our depth in that position.’’
ILundqvist has been back home in Sweden during the pause, and has been able to skate because Sweden never had any type of stay-at-home order or social distancing. Georgiev, who went to Finland during the pause, also has been skating. Davidson, who had spoken to Lundqvist, said he didn’t know if Shesterkin has been skating, “but I can tell you (Shesterkin and Georgiev) have been working.’’
Davidson was speaking from St. Louis. He and his wife had driven to Michigan and St. Louis to see their daughters and their families, and to meet their newest grandson, who was born in March. He planned on driving back to New York Friday.
On the call, he spoke about how the training staff had been in contact with each player throughout the pause, and how there had been Zoom yoga classes, and the team had sent each player slide boards, so they could work on their skating technique at home, without ice. He and the management team have been preparing for the upcoming draft – which is not yet scheduled – and have been very busy throughout, he said.
As far as details of training camp, Davidson said he doesn’t know yet how many players the Rangers will bring in. He did say former first-round pick Lias Andersson, who left the team and went back to Sweden after having been assigned to the minor leagues, would be a consideration. He said both he and Quinn have been in contact with Andersson.