With the NHL regular season finally getting underway, the New York Rangers have begun their 93rd campaign. With a new outlook and a brand new roster, the Rangers have new hope. But, with that hope leads to a bunch of unanswered questions.
One of those questions is just how much of a split will there be between Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin in goal this season? In a tale of old versus young, the Rangers are in good shape with all three goaltenders for 2019-20.
What should be the split, in terms of starts, for the three goaltenders?
First, let’s look at what Lundqvist can still bring at 37-years-old. He has a brand new forward group in front of him that can score at will. Artemi Panarin joins a star-studded first line alongside Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. The firepower generated from that top line will significantly help give Lundqvist a bit of a cushion. Staying ahead of the opposition and handling the puck more than your opponent will always give your goaltender a confidence boost.
The defense, with new additions like Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox, is still a big issue for the Rangers and Lundqvist. Obviously, “King Hank” has to be able to keep the puck out of the net and that is his sole responsibility. But, if he is getting peppered with a plethora of shots from the other team, he isn’t going to be able to save everything.
On opening night, it looked like a youthful Lundqvist in net for the Rangers. He looked sharp, locked-in and focused against the firing squad of the Winnipeg Jets. Overall, this season can be a huge rebound for him, and the clock is ticking on his career. This season, as well as next, could be the last chance at the thing he is desperately missing from a stacked list of achievements, a Stanley Cup. This is the 15th season of his career, and it will likely be his final season as the Rangers number one guy in between the pipes. The split in starts will be a lot larger than it has been in recent years.
This may be Alexandar Georgiev’s last chance to win over the hearts of the Rangers front office and the Rangerstown community. He is slated to be Lundqvist’s backup for the season, but there is another name in the system that is fighting to take his spot and potentially pass him: Shesterkin.
With Lundqvist’s growing age, this season should see a lot more of the Bulgarian native. Georgiev will be given his shot to show what he can do as a potential starting goaltender. His first start of the season will be game number two of the 2019-20 season, against the Ottawa Senators.
Each start will be crucial for Georgiev in 2019-20. It is his last opportunity to cement his place in the Rangers’ future plans. He ultimately deserves the chance at being the successor to Lundqvist, and he will have to just prove that a little more this season.
Coming into the fold for the goaltending battle is Shesterkin. After putting up video game stats in the Kontinental Hockey League, many anticipate that he will replace Lundqvist and become the next franchise goaltender. But, he hasn’t started an NHL game, and he will have to work his way up the ladder.
He will continue his journey to New York, through the Hartford Wolfpack in the AHL. He will get his time in the NHL, and it may come sooner rather than later. Shesterkin had a solid outing in the preseason and would have likely been the back-up if Georgiev didn’t have more experience.
Experience is the really the only thing holding Georgiev in New York and Shesterkin in Hartford. At the end of this season, the answer for the heir of Lundqvist’s throne will be revealed. Will it be Georgiev, who rightfully deserves the chance, or Shesterkin, who will appear in a lot fewer games than his competitor.
So, that leaves the question of what exactly this split will look like. Lundqvist will obviously get a majority of the starts and will be called upon in the most crucial games of the season. But, just how many chances will Georgiev and Shesterkin get to show their true potential as the Rangers future starting goaltender?
My take is that it will be a 45-35-10 split. Lundqvist will start 37 games and Georgiev will get 29 games, leaving Shesterkin a chance to show himself in 16 games. This split gives the Rangers a chance to see what works and what doesn’t, and ultimately figure out how to go forward if they endure another losing season.
Lundqvist’s time is running out and the midnight hour is almost here on his incredible career. Despite his contract lasting through to the end of next season, the decision has to be made on his replacement soon. The two likely candidates for the job, are the other two goaltenders splitting time with him this season. The 2019-20 campaign for the Rangers should paint a clearer picture of who gets to be the starting goaltender for the future of this franchise. But, as of right now, it is still anyone’s right to claim the throne.