The 2020-21 season was the New York Rangers’ first one since buying out Henrik Lundqvist’s contract after 15 stellar seasons with the Blueshirts. The decision provided an opportunity for young goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.
While Shesterkin earned the starting job, he suffered a groin injury that kept him out of the lineup for an extended period of time and gave Georgiev an opportunity to be the starter. At times, he was impressive in goal, but he also went through stretches when he played poorly. Given Shesterkin’s history of injuries, Georgiev will be a very important player next season, and the Rangers need more consistency from him.
Georgiev’s Unexpected Rise With the Rangers
Though Georgiev went undrafted in 2017, the Rangers signed him as a free agent. He played well with the Hartford Wolf Pack and earned a promotion to the NHL late in the 2017-18 season. New York had just begun a rebuild, and they were struggling defensively and had to rely heavily on their young goaltender. He faced at least 33 shots in eight of his nine starts that season and made at least 35 saves in all four of his victories.
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During the 2018-19 season, Georgiev once again split time between the Wolf Pack and Rangers, but this time, he spent the majority of the season in the NHL. He struggled with his positioning early on but cleaned that up and played very well late in the season, including stopping 55 of 56 shots in a 4-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the 2019-20 season, Georgiev once again had a few incredible games, stopping over 40 shots in three victories. However, he also went through a few slumps, including one that came when the Rangers had to rely on him with Shesterkin out of the lineup injured. He also allowed 18 goals during a rough four-game stretch in November.
After the coronavirus pandemic paused the season, Shesterkin suffered another injury ahead of New York’s qualifying series. The Rangers opted to start Lundqvist rather than Georgiev, who never played in the series as the Carolina Hurricanes swept the Blueshirts.
Georgiev’s 2020-21 Season
Despite a disappointing end to the 2020-21 season, Georgiev began this season with a shutout victory over the rival New York Islanders in his first game of the season. Shesterkin struggled early in the season, opening the door for Georgiev to earn the starting job, but he followed up his shutout with very poor play. He overcommitted to shots wide of the net, allowed too many easy rebound chances and struggled to handle the puck.
Shesterkin followed up his disappointing start with excellent play and became the Rangers’ starting goalie. He was dominant and kept New York in games in which they were outplayed, while Georgiev improved his positioning and did a nice job as the team’s backup.
A groin injury in March knocked Shesterkin out of the lineup, creating another opportunity for Georgiev, but he failed to make the most of it. He seemed to alternate between strong starts and weak starts, but overall, he allowed too many soft goals from bad angles and poor rebound control. He ended up splitting time with Keith Kinkaid until Shesterkin returned to the lineup.
One positive for the Rangers is they can protect Georgiev for the upcoming 2021 Expansion Draft because Shesterkin has only spent two seasons in the NHL, so he is exempt. Georgiev should be highly motivated, as he is entering the final season of his contract and will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Georgiev will look to break a disappointing trend next season, as his save percentage has decreased in each of his seasons with the Blueshirts. His save percentage dropped from .918 as a rookie to .914 in his second season to .910 in his third season and to .905 this season. He missed out on an opportunity to take over as the Rangers’ starting goalie this season, and he needs to bounce back next season.
Given Shesterkin’s alarming history of injuries, the Rangers will likely have to rely on Georgiev more than a typical backup goalie. He has to play better than this coming season to prove he can be a starting goalie. If he can consistently give the Rangers a chance to win when he’s called upon, it will go a long way towards helping the Blueshirts make the postseason.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, rooting for the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. When my dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees fell short, I started writing about sports instead. I’m a proud graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.