In a day without any shutouts, one young goalie still managed to stand out, and it’s a sign of terrific things to come in the Big Apple. Plus, today, we’ll also take a look at the week in review.
Shesterkin On Fire
There’s no question that Igor Shesterkin is the future for the New York Rangers, ready to take the reins from the all-time great, Henrik Lundqvist. But the more opportunities Shesterkin gets to start, the more he makes it clear that the future is now. The 24-year-old goalkeeper is ready to take command of the NHL, and he showed it again on Sunday.
A great goaltender can make an even game look like a lopsided victory for his team, and Shesterkin managed that against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Kings controlled the game with 56.21 percent of the Corsi for percentage (CF%). They had 43 to the Rangers’ 41, and 16 high danger chances for (HDCF) to the Rangers’ 11. The Kings had 3.87 expected goals (xG), while the Rangers had 3.52.
Even so, the Rangers won the game 4-1, and Shesterkin was the reason why. He made 42 saves, including four on a power play, for a total save percentage (SV%) of .977. That brought his SV% on the season to .933. with a 2.34 goals-against average (GAA). It’s been a remarkable start for the young Russian.
But what might be most remarkable about Sheshterkin is his ability to win. He has made six NHL starts now and won five of them, matching Cam Talbot’s 2013-14 franchise mark for the fewest starts to reach five wins. He also joined Ken Dryden, Roberto Luongo, and James Reimer as the only goalies to two 40-plus save victories through six or fewer career starts.
But the most remarkable stat about Shesterkin dates back several seasons. Dating back to the 2016-17 season, in 126 appearances between the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the American Hockey League (AHL), and the NHL, Shesterkin has won 101 games. That’s an .802 winning percentage over three-plus seasons. It’s an impressive symbol of the remarkable things to come with Shesterkin in the City that Never Sleeps.
Week in Review
MacKenzie Blackwood of the New Jersey Devils may finally be rounding into form. He had two consecutive shutouts on Thursday and Saturday, making 46 saves against the Philadelphia Flyers and then 37 against the Kings. Carey Price has also been in terrific form, with a 1.50 GAA and .948 SV% (along with one shutout) in four starts in the month of February.
No one rivals Elvis Merzlikins, however, who has been the hottest goalie on the planet for about a month. Since Joonas Korpisalo went down to injury, Merzlikins has been unbeatable. In February, he’s 3-1-0, with a .950 SV% and a 1.26 GAA with two shutouts. That brings his season stats up to 12-7-4 with a .930 SV% and a 2.19 GAA, plus five shutouts, all of which have come since Jan. 11. Merzlikins is taking the world by storm and celebrating every second of it, and he’ll force the Columbus Blue Jackets to make difficult decisions when Korpisalo returns, which should be soon.
David Rittich is showing some troubling signs for the Calgary Flames. Despite an All-Star Game appearance, he has struggled. In three games in February, he’s allowed 11 goals on 81 shots for an .864 SV% and a 4.08 GAA. On the other side of the Battle of Alberta, Mikko Koskinen has also scuffled, with an .877 SV% and a 3.46 GAA.
Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues is on the first extended slump of his NHL career. He now has seven consecutive starts where he’s allowed three goals or more. That’s an .897 SV% and 3.00 GAA in February, which isn’t terrible, but certainly is not great. Perhaps he is distracted by Justin Bieber. The Blues travel to California to play the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, and it will be interesting to note whether they go with Binnington or Jake Allen, who usually excels on the road.
Backup of the Week: Jonathan Bernier
It’s difficult to identify who the Detroit Red Wings’ starter is anymore. Usually, one could say it’s the “hot hand,” but the Red Wings may not be interested in starting the hot hand in their pursuit of a historically bad record and, consequently, the best chance at the first-overall pick. But entering the season one would assume Jonathan Bernier was the backup, and he deserves recognition this week because he’s been on fire.
This week, Bernier won two games, the first of which was Detroit’s first victory in ten games. That 29-save performance was just enough to power the Red Wings past the Buffalo Sabres. But Bernier was even more impressive in a one-goal performance against the Boston Bruins on Sunday. He made 39 saves and knocked off the first-place team in the entire NHL in the process, more than worthy of our backup of the week honors.
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.