With back-to-back on tap for Rangers, who plays in net if Igor Shesterkin sits?
ST. PAUL, Minn. — After Igor Shesterkin’s 42-save performance in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, Rangers coach David Quinn said he was done trying to figure out how best to rotate the three goalies on his roster to try and keep everyone sharp. From that point on, Quinn said, the best goalie was going to play.
Well, the best goalie without a doubt has been Shesterkin, who has won six of his first seven NHL starts (6-1) and posted a 2.18 goals-against average and .941 save percentage since his initial recall Jan. 6 from AHL Hartford. According to NHL Stats and Information, Shesterkin is the first goaltender, since saves were first tracked in 1955-56, to post three 40-save wins in his first seven career appearances (he had 42 in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Winnipeg).
Now comes another test for both Shesterkin and Quinn. The Rangers (28-23-4, 60 points) close this three-game road trip with a back-to-back set, Thursday against Minnesota and Friday in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. And unless Quinn decides to start Shesterkin in both games, then he is going to have to make a decision as to which goaltender — Henrik Lundqvist or Alexandar Georgiev — will get to play for the first time since Shesterkin took over as the undeclared (but obvious) No. 1.
The Rangers canceled practice Wednesday, so there was no chance to ask the coach what his thoughts are regarding his goaltender for Thursday and Friday. But if one wanted to guess, there are some tidbits to consider:
Shesterkin tweaked his left ankle in Tuesday’s game when he was bumped by Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp (who was pushed by defenseman Tony DeAngelo) midway through the first period. That was the hit that prompted the NHL’s concussion spotter to require Shesterkin to leave the game for the last 6:04 of the period to undergo concussion testing.
Although the 24-year-old Russian returned to start the second period and was able to finish the game, the Rangers will want to see how his ankle responded Wednesday before making a decision on Thursday’s starter. It might make sense to give Shesterkin the night off Thursday and hold him back until Friday, when the Rangers face the Metropolitan Division rival Blue Jackets, who held the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference — and a 10-point lead over the Rangers — entering play Wednesday.
And if that is the call, then who will start Thursday? Will it be Georgiev, who started last Friday and was, in Quinn’s words, “solid’’ in a terrible 3-2 home loss to Buffalo? Or will it be Lundqvist, who was pulled after two periods in his last start Feb. 3 (in a 5-3 loss to Dallas). Lundqvist entered the game Tuesday when Shesterkin had to leave, and immediately was called on to make a sharp pad save to keep the score 0-0.
Assuming Quinn doesn’t start Shesterkin in both games, then is whoever starts the other game the new No. 2? And what would that mean, in terms of ice time, for No. 3? Georgiev, who turned 24 on Monday, has been a backup most of his NHL career and is more familiar with the irregularity of work that comes with being a No. 2. So he may be better suited to the role.
But the other guy is Henrik Lundqvist.