Rangers fans are no strangers to having a goaltender carry their team into the playoffs and if the team hopes to pull off a comeback into the dance this season it rests on the pads of Igor Shesterkin.
Since coming back from his groin injury Shesterkin has reclaimed his crease with a bang going 2-1-0 and having one of the best showings of his young career Tuesday night in the Blueshirts win over the Capitals. Washington came out ready to play and the Rangers slept walked through the first period and if Kinkaid or Georgiev were in the net the Caps would have had a healthy three or even four goal lead before the intermission. Igor settled down and made some really good saves to keep the Rangers alive and in the game until they could finally claw even and take the lead in the third.
Shesterkin’s reemergence has certainly been a site for sore eyes because the Rangers goaltending when they’ve looked elsewhere this year has been shaky at best. While earlier in the season, the goaltending matchups have been a juggling act, David Quinn of late has shown he loves to ride the hot hand. Unless Shesterkin has a blowout loss anywhere down the stretch here then Igor should be seeing game action at least 80% of the way to finish the season.
One could argue that the goaltender carousel that Quinn was playing to start the year has helped contribute to the Blueshirts being on the outside looking in of the playoff race. By not allowing one of his netminders, Shesterkin, to play strings of games in a row it didn’t allow him to find any sort of groove for himself or the team in front of him. When Shesterkin went down in New Jersey he was playing some of the best hockey of his young career and it was because he was finally seeing consecutive starts.
Thanks to some coaching blunders, injuries, and overall bad luck the Rangers threw away a chance to stack some early season points to give them a potential cushion late in the year to make the playoffs. With no real “gimme” games left on their schedule the Blueshirts are going to need every single point they can get their hands on down the stretch of the season especially since the Flyers and Bruins are seemingly leaving the door open to the fourth spot in the Metro East division.
Since the Rangers haven’t had the best of luck this season when turning to their backups, Georgiev and Kinkaid, it’ll be squarely on Shesterkin to channel his best Lundqvist efforts in order to help push this team over Philly and Boston. I can count so many times I witnessed Henrik Lundqvist pull the Rangers through games and even through some seasons and drag this organization kicking and screaming to the playoffs. If the 2021 New York Rangers have any hopes of playing some spring time hockey they’ll have to look to the Czar to do his best Lundqvist impression to get them there. Time is ticking after all, boys.
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