Rangers News & Rumors: Shesterkin, Zibanejad, Panarin & More

Igor Shesterkin received two award nominations last week, while Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin finally stepped up during some big moments in the New York Rangers’ historic comeback win. They’ll look to build on that momentum, as will the rest of the team, as they head into their Round 2 matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Here’s the latest club news ahead of Wednesday’s Game 1.

Shesterkin Finalist for Vezina & Hart

Shesterkin was nominated for the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy as the league’s best goaltender and most valuable player (to their team), respectively, last week, after a stellar season that saw him propel the Rangers to second place in the Metropolitan Division. He was so good all season that he’s been in the Hart Trophy conversation for a good portion of the 2021-22 season. However, he battled some minor injuries and less-than-amazing play at some points, which dwindled the Hart talk. He went on a bit of a heater after the trade deadline and somehow got himself back in that conversation.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The other finalists for the Vezina are Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators and Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames. Shesterkin finished the season with a 2.07 goals-against average (GAA) and a .935 save percentage (SV%). He led the league in both categories. Saros had a 2.64 GAA and a .918 SV% while Markstrom had a 2.24 GAA and .922 SV%. It’s safe to say Shesterkin is probably a shoo-in for the award, especially after his Hart Trophy nomination, where he is up against the Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.

Related: Rangers Need Panarin to Step Up Or They’ll Be Done

Matthews was the only 60-goal scorer during the 2021-22 season, and he’s the first player in Maple Leafs’ franchise history to hit that mark. He added 46 assists and led the team to second place in the Atlantic Division. McDavid led all scorers in the NHL with 123 points (a career-high) and tallied 44 goals and 79 assists — also career highs for the Oilers superstar. Most NHL pundits are pretty split between Matthews and McDavid, who’s won twice so far in his career, while Shesterkin is a longshot. If he does somehow win the award, he will become the first Ranger to do so since Mark Messier won in 1992.

Zibanejad & Panarin Help Spark Historic Comeback

The Rangers dug themselves a huge hole after the first four games of their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They found themselves down three games to one and had pretty much been outplayed from the get-go. However, they were resilient and found a way to get to Game 7, take the series, and become the first team in Stanley Cup Playoff history with three consecutive comeback wins in elimination games during a single series.

Shesterkin struggled early but was able to steady himself and make some big-time saves as the Rangers clawed their way back. Zibanejad and Panarin, the Blueshirts’ top two point-getters in the regular season, weren’t much of a factor until Zibanejad caught fire with three goals and four assists in the final two games while tallying 11 points in the series. Panarin continued his M.O. of being at about a point-per-game in his playoff career, but there were a few games where he was almost non-existent. However, “Breadman” scored the game-winner on a shot that he said he only saw a “black picture” (putting his hand over his eyes), but he was grinning ear to ear, of course, and head coach Gerard Gallant called it. (From ‘Rangers’ Artemi Panarin redeems off series with Game 7 winner’, New York Post, 5/15/22)

Personal Awards and a Series Win

The Rangers have a lot to be excited about. Their goaltender of the future and heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist made his breakthrough into the top echelon of elite NHL netminders. They also proved their resilience with their historic playoff comeback thanks to a stellar performance from Zibanejad and a huge goal by Panarin.

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