Rangers’ Shesterkin Deserves Hart Trophy Consideration

The New York Rangers have relied heavily on starting goalie Igor Shesterkin all season, and he has once again stepped up for them in their last few games. He has proven to be the Blueshirts’ backbone this season and with the team struggling recently he has found a way to steal them crucial wins. He has consistently played at an elite level and he should be one of the top candidates for the Hart Memorial Trophy in addition to the Vezina Trophy.

Shesterkin’s Recent Play

The Rangers haven’t played to their potential since returning from the All-Star break, but they have found a way to continue winning games because of the outstanding play of Shesterkin. He allowed just five goals in his first five games after the break, but the Blueshirts struggled to score and also gave up a lot of scoring opportunities. They went 3-0-1 in the first four games before losing 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After losing to the Penguins, head coach Gerard Gallant gave Shesterkin a game off and New York lost 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, as backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev did not play well. Though the Rangers still had an impressive 33-15-5 record, the teams they’re battling in the playoff race continued to pile up points, making it especially important to stop the losing streak.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin has stepped up for the New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In their next game, against the St. Louis Blues, the Rangers once again did not play their best, and neither did Shesterkin, but they still found a way to win. After falling behind 3-2, the Rangers scored two consecutive goals, and their star goalie repeatedly made timely stops with the Blueshirts clinging to a one-goal lead. He stopped all 13 shots in the third period, including two consecutive great saves on Pavel Buchnevich with New York shorthanded. The Rangers went on to win 5-3.

Related: Rangers’ Shesterkin Quietly Becoming a Top NHL Goaltender

The Blueshirts gave up a lot of scoring chances in their next game against the rival New Jersey Devils but once again, Shesterkin made the difference. He stopped Nico Hischier on a breakaway and then made an incredible save on the rebound. He came up with clutch saves, stopping all 12 shots he faced in the third period and stopping 32 of 33 in the game, as the Rangers won 3-1.

In their road game against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, thanks to Shesterkin’s stellar play, the Rangers won their third consecutive game despite giving up numerous scoring opportunities. They allowed 46 shots and took six penalties, but he managed to make saves on shots through traffic and control rebounds in the Blueshirts’ 4-1 victory. Their star goaltender stopped all 17 of the shots he faced in the third, including many early in the period with the Rangers only ahead 2-1.

Shesterkin dominated in the third period of all three victories, and he has the Rangers back on track even though they haven’t played to their potential recently.

Shesterkin’s Play This Season

After missing the playoffs last season, the Rangers have a 36-15-5 record this season and Shesterkin is leading the way. He is 28-6-3 with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. Whenever the Blueshirts have struggled this season, he has responded and taken his game to another level.

Shesterkin is technically sound and has hardly ever been caught out of position. He stays square to shooters, has incredible reflexes, consistently saves breakaways, and always finds a way to battle through screens to find the puck. Additionally, he is great at playing the puck, which takes some pressure off of New York’s defensemen. He’s made some great breakout passes to start the rush.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin is in the midst of an incredible season (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While all of Shesterkin’s statistics this season are impressive, his record stands out because he has repeatedly made clutch saves late in games. The Rangers have one of the best records in the Eastern Conference, but they also have second-worst Corsi for percentage in the NHL, at 45.03 percent. Their star goalie has consistently won games for the Blueshirts when their opponents have outplayed them.

The Rangers and Shesterkin Moving Forward

The Blueshirts are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season, and they will have to continue to rely heavily on Shesterkin down the stretch. They are still one of the youngest teams in the NHL, and this season is a big step in the right direction.

Shesterkin’s elite play is one of the driving forces behind New York’s improved record and he has stepped up for them whenever the team has struggled. He is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy and is also one of the top candidates for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Most importantly, he gives the Rangers a great chance to win every time he is in goal.

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