The New York Rangers have gotten off to a good start this season, winning four consecutive games before losing at home to the Calgary Flames on Monday. Goalie Igor Shesterkin has led the Blueshirts, and his brilliant play has stolen the Rangers a few games. However, they have relied too heavily on their star goalie early this season and will have to start playing better in front of him.
Shesterkin’s Play This Season
Thus far this season, Shesterkin’s record is 3-1-1, has a .933 save percentage, and 2.17 goals-against average. The Rangers lost his first game of the season 3-2 in overtime against the Dallas Stars, and while he didn’t play poorly, he said he should have stopped the overtime goal he allowed. He responded with excellent play in his next three games.
Shesterkin stopped 31 of 32 shots to lead the Rangers to their first win of the season on the road against the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers gave up far too many chances in the slot, but he bailed them out repeatedly and kept them in the game. He also made clutch saves late in the game with the Blueshirts clinging to a one-goal lead.
The Rangers won their next game against the Toronto Maple Leafs despite getting outplayed, as Shesterkin stopped 40 shots and allowed only one goal in the game. The goal he allowed occurred in the second period when the Maple Leafs outshot the Rangers 17-2. He also made two spectacular overtime saves, including one on Auston Matthews, before Artemi Panarin scored the game-winning goal for the Rangers.
Shesterkin then stopped 28 of 29 shots in a victory against the Nashville Predators before losing his most recent start in the Rangers’ ugly performance against the Calgary Flames. His positioning has been excellent, he has controlled rebounds, and he has repeatedly made timely saves to give the Blueshirts opportunities to win games.
Rangers Need to Play Better
While Shesterkin has made up for a lot of the Rangers’ mistakes this season, they need to play better in front of him. They have given up far too many scoring opportunities with sloppy coverage in front of the net, and they’ve also had too many periods where they come out flat, and aren’t able to establish their forecheck until late in the period.
The Blueshirts have also struggled to score goals this season. They have only 15 goals in their first seven games, and two of those have been empty-netters. The Rangers have consistently created scoring chances, but simply haven’t been able to finish enough of those chances. Star players Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have each scored only one goal through seven games, but both have had back luck and hit the post multiple times.
The Rangers have scored on just 11.5 percent of their power plays this season, after scoring on 20.7 percent of them last season. They’ve struggled without key forwards Kaapo Kakko, who has missed four games with an upper-body injury, and Ryan Strome who just returned after also missing four games.
Despite their slow start offensively, the Rangers should certainly score more goals going forward given the opportunities they’ve created. The key will be playing better defensively and allowing fewer quality scoring chances.
For Shesterkin This Season
The Blueshirts should be very encouraged that their record is 4-2-1 given that they haven’t played to their potential so far. They’ve found a way to win close games, and Shesterkin has played like a star. While it isn’t ideal to rely so heavily on him, he’s proven to be a difference-maker and can steal games for the Rangers.
So far this season, Shesterkin has been dominant in goal, and carried the Blueshirts to victories. Now it’s time for the rest of the team to start playing better and take some of the pressure off of him.
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.