New York Rangers head coach David Quinn made a monumental-if-inevitable announcement on Thursday, a story that leads the goalie news. Also, one Anaheim Ducks goalie made a tremendous trade just under two weeks before the deadline.
Shesterkin is Rangers #1
New York Rangers’ goaltender on the rise Igor Shesterkin has been dominant in his first few games in the NHL. He’s started just seven games in his young career, but he’s won six of them, particularly impressive given his team has only 28 on the entire season. He carries a 2.18 goals-against average (GAA) and a .941 save percentage (SV%) in that time.
The Blueshirts drafted Shesterkin in the fourth round in the 2014 NHL Draft. Since then, he’s risen to become one of the most promising young goaltenders of the future and a probable future elite netminder. But even the most positive prognosticators couldn’t have foreseen the statistics he’s put up so far. Given those incredible numbers, Quinn made Shesterkin the starter for the Rangers in no uncertain terms:
Right now, that is the situation we’re in because of his play, for sure. You want to give everybody an opportunity and see how this thing unfolds. I thought everybody had an ample opportunity and everybody had a chance to state their case. I just felt that Igor had made the most impact.Rangers head coach David Quinn when asked whether Igor Shesterkin is the team’s new #1
While there’s no question that Shesterkin is the Rangers’ future, it’s still a momentous announcement given who he’s replacing. Henrik Lundqvist is a legend in the Big Apple, and no one will ever wear his number 30 in Madison Square Garden again (unless they play for the New York Knicks.) To publicly and unflinchingly announce Shesterkin as the starter is a big step, even if it was an inevitable one for such a promising young goaltender.
Despite the announcement, Shesterkin did not get the start on Thursday night. Facing back-to-back games, Thursday’s start went to Alexandar Georgiev, the third head of the New York goaltending trio. He helped power the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild in overtime.
Saros Stymies the Islanders
The Nashville Predators have been struggling this season, and their goaltending tandem of Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne hasn’t been much help. Their poor play helped lead to the firing of former head coach Peter Laviolette. On the bright side, while Rinne has continued to struggle under new head coach John Hynes, Saros has improved significantly. He carried a 3.25 GAA and .892 SV% at the time of the firing in January but now sits at 3.03/.901.
Saros has been getting the bulk of the starts lately, though his last outing was in relief of a struggling Rinne. On Thursday, Hynes gave him yet another start against a New York Islanders team that has scored five goals in three of its last four games. Fortunately, the game was at Bridgestone Arena, where Saros’ GAA (2.82) has been much better. After Thursday, it will be even greater still.
The Islanders had more of the shots in the game, but Saros was up to the challenge, stopping all 31. They also generated 10 high danger chances (HDCF), but just 1.92 expected goals (xG), and Saros remained unbeatable. It’s his second shutout on the season. The Predators are hoping that the 5-0 victory will be enough to get them back on the right track while they are still very much in the playoff hunt.
Talbot Stands Tall
Usually, when a team wins 6-0, they dominate the game. But if you believe advanced metrics, nothing could be further from the truth about the Anaheim Ducks’ loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday. Despite the score, Anaheim controlled 62.22 percent of the Corsi for percentage (CF%), had the advantage in xG (3.69-3.08), and stayed mostly even in HDCF (12 to Calgary’s 14). Who was the difference? Flames backup netminder Cam Talbot.
In a resurgent season with the Flames, Talbot has been stellar. Playing on the southern side of Alberta now, he carried a .918 SV% and a 2.72 GAA into Thursday’s tilt. His performance against the Ducks may have been his crown jewel: he stopped all 44 shots against, including nine on the power play, to give the Flames two critical points. Just five points stood between first in the Pacific Division and the final Western Conference wild card spot, and Talbot helped keep his team right in the thick of things.
Ryan Miller Makes a Trade
Ryan Miller has been involved in some significant trades before, but this one might have worked out better for him than the previous one. Nobody panic: Miller is still with the Ducks. But now, when he returns to his locker, he’ll have a tasty treat to reward himself for a good practice.
Miller was warming up for a home game (presumably Tuesday’s against the St. Louis Blues, which was later suspended after Jay Bouwmeester’s emergency) when he spotted a sign. “Hey,” the sign said. “Guys I’ll trade you a box of thin mints for a puck PLEASE. Let’s go Ducks.”
Miller didn’t give the proposition a second thought. He immediately skated over to the young fan and tossed a puck over the glass. True to her word, she tossed a box of the popular peppermint Girl Scout cookies back, and Miller caught it in his trapper. The trade deadline is still ten days away, but there’s no question this is the best transaction of the season in the NHL.
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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.