Following an empty three game road trip in Western Canada, the Rangers made a big decision yesterday that could have a long-term impact on the franchise. They decided it was time to finally call up top goalie prospect Igor Shesterkin. He will make his first career NHL start tonight against the Avalanche.
Having successfully come over to North America where he dominated the AHL with the Wolf Pack to be named one of two All-Stars along with defenseman Joey Keane, the recently turned 24-year old Russian netminder will be in net to face one of the league’s best offenses. Considering they were shutout 1-0 on Monday night at the Islanders, Colorado should have plenty of motivation.
By giving Shesterkin this game, the Rangers organization isn’t shying away from testing their young goalie right away. It’ll be a baptism by fire when he faces a team that features Hart candidate Nathan MacKinnon, Mikka Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri and Calder candidate Cale Makar. It should present a unique challenge for the rookie who earned this opportunity by dominating the AHL by posting a 15-4-3 record with a league best 1.93 GAA, .932 save percentage and three shutouts.
So, when the Blueshirts kickoff the second half at Madison Square Garden later, there will be plenty of curiosity and excitement to see if Shesterkin can hold up versus one of the NHL’s top teams. The former 2014 fourth round pick selected number 118 overall doesn’t lack confidence. Both he and the team feel he’s ready.
Forget all the sideshow theatrics of a columnist who wants to create a fake storyline due to there now being three goalies on the NHL roster. There is no controversy here. Shesterkin earned it. The most important thing is for the organization to find out if he can handle the weight of expectation and pressure with becoming an NHL goalie. If he proves himself, then it helps the Rangers decade what’s best moving forward.
For those who argue that goaltending is the least of their problems, both Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev have sub 3.00 goals-against-averages and similar save percentages (Hank .910/Georgie .909). While they’ve done alright given the high volume of shots and scoring chances they’ve faced, neither has made enough of a difference to lay claim as a number one goalie. One makes too much money while the other is actually a couple of months younger than Shesterkin.
This day was coming. So even if there aren’t any goalie starved teams ringing Jeff Gorton’s phone off the hook to inquire about Georgiev, this is all about the future of the franchise. The Rangers have approximately six weeks to decide what they’re doing. Today is January 7, 2020. The February 24 trade deadline will be here before you know it.
Goalie is an organizational strength. Tyler Wall continues to impress with UMass Lowell in his senior year. Olof Lindbom is only 19 playing in Sweden a ways away. Adam Huska is now the starter for the Wolf Pack. Eventually, the team has to make tough choices. The Seattle expansion hits in 2022. Around the same time Lundqvist has his contract expire and Georgiev could be left unprotected if he’s still a Blueshirt.
There are more tough decisions coming up. That’s not what this post is about. I’ve referenced it before and will again in future posts.
Tonight is an exciting day for the Rangers and their loyal fans. It’s a glimpse into the future. For better or worse, Shesterkin or Shestyorkin will likely be the goalie leading this team by 2022. Who knows. Maybe if Wall pans out assuming he works out, that could be your Blueshirts tandem.
Don’t let any alarmists more concerned about the three goalie system, ruin it. This is a good thing. Hope is too.