There are some things in professional sports that are just inexplicable. So, after a while, you stop trying to figure them out and you just roll with it.
Which is why Alexandar Georgiev got the start in goal Friday for the Rangers against the Islanders.
"As a head coach, I just accept it,’’ coach David Quinn said when discussing the 25-year-old Georgiev’s uncanny mastery of the Islanders. "He's a guy that's done well against the Islanders, and I'm not – you know, the only thing that I know about goalies, is whether they stop it or not. So he stops it, [or] seems to stop it more than he doesn't against the Islanders. That's the only thing that I know.’’
From 2015-18, the Rangers were 1-9-2 against the Islanders, but since the beginning of 2018-19, Georgiev’s rookie season, the Blueshirts were 6-5 against their rivals to the east before Friday. And all six wins belonged to Georgiev, who was 6-2, with a 1.80 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage, and two shutouts – including one this season – against Barry Trotz’s men.
One of Georgiev’s losses against the Isles was the first game of the 2018-19 season at Barclays Center, when he came on to play the third period of that game in relief of Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers trailed 5-3 when Georgiev came in, and Leo Komarov scored to make it 6-3 before the Rangers got late goals from Chris Kreider and Filip Chytil to pull within 6-5. The Isles got an empty-net goal and won, 7-5.
Georgiev’s other loss was a 4-2 decision in the final game before the All-Star break last season, when Artemi Panarin missed the game with an undisclosed injury.
Still, eight games over three seasons is not an overwhelming sample size. And so, with Igor Shesterkin assuming Lundqvist's role as the Rangers’ No. 1 goaltender, he got the call in two of the first three games against the Islanders this season.
He lost both.
The first was on opening night, when Shesterkin was not sharp early, and the Islanders won, 4-0. The Rangers rebounded two nights later and won, 5-0, with Georgiev in goal. That was the night when Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov got hurt by a high shot in warmups and rookie Ilya Sorokin was called on to make his NHL debut. The Islanders seemed rattled and didn’t do much. Georgiev made 23 mostly routine saves.
The teams played again Feb. 8, and with the dust still settling after the waiving of Tony DeAngelo after his reported fight with Georgiev nine days earlier, Quinn opted to go with Shesterkin, who had won two straight starts. The Islanders scored twice in the third period to win, 2-0.
This time, with Shesterkin having started five games in a row, including Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, logic dictated Georgiev should start against the Isles. Before Thursday’s game, Quinn wouldn’t commit to which goalie he would go with on Friday -- he wanted to see how Thursday’s game went, he said. When the Rangers lost, 5-2, to the Penguins, starting Georgiev made sense.
Georgiev, however, hadn’t played since March 19, when he allowed two third-period goals by Alexander Ovechkin and the Rangers lost to the Washington Capitals, 2-1. Keith Kinkaid started the next two games, and then Shesterkin came back from a groin injury and started seven of the next eight (Kinkaid started the other).
And leading into Friday, Georgiev hadn’t had a great season overall. He was 5-5-2, with a 2.92 GAA and an .897 save percentage, and had been pulled from three of his 13 starts. But Quinn certainly was hoping the goalie’s results against the Islanders would supersede those numbers.