After a 10-game hiatus, Igor Shesterkin finally returned to the New York Rangers’ net, backstopping an 8-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. That score is massively deceiving, as the lopsided goal total does not indicate the 25 year old’s workload, as he stopped 41 of 44 Flyers’ shots. It was a solid return from injury that should give the Rangers the utmost confidence that their number one netminder is back.
All eyes were focused on how crisp Shesterkin’s mobility and movement would be, especially after a groin injury that looked so damaging. Almost 15 minutes into the first period, the Russian goaltender would push across to make a terrific save on Claude Giroux, flexing the groin in a similar fashion to the incident that injured him just ten games prior.
Shesterkin was calm and composed for the entire 60 minutes and looked locked in from puck-drop, a difficult task given the circumstances. Expect him to continue to get better with consistent game action, making the red-hot Rangers even more dangerous right now.
Zibanejad Torches Philadelphia Again
Just eight days after burning the Flyers for nine goals, the Rangers managed to tally eight in another massacre. It wasn’t as dominating a performance as the 9-0 win was, but an 8-3 rout saw New York continue to beat up on their rivals. More impressively than the back-to-back blowouts was Mika Zibanejad putting up consecutive six-point games against the same opponent, becoming the first player in NHL history to do so, per NHL Public Relations.
According to TSN, Mika Zibanejad joined the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, by recording a natural hat trick and 3-plus assists in a game twice. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, Zibanejad joined Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, and Pat LaFontaine as the only players two have six or more points multiple times in a game in a single season.
Adam Fox tallied five assists, Pavel Buchnevich had two goals, and Ryan Strome had four points, capping off another impressive victory over the Flyers. Igor Shesterkin had to be as impressive as a netminder would in a five-goal victory, stopping 41 of the 44 rubber pellets thrown his way. Zibanejad’s six points moved him to 26 on the season, a whopping total considering he was at a mere nine points just 13 calendar days ago.
This weekend presents the Rangers with a back-to-back slate, with two matinee games against the Flyers on Saturday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Kris Knoblauch, who is 4-1-0 since stepping in with David Quinn in COVID-protocol, announced that Shesterkin would get the nod for Saturday’s affair, all but ensuring Alexandar Georgiev will be in goal Sunday.
It’s a weekend of the utmost importance for a Rangers team looking to chase down the pack while distancing themselves from the Flyers. The Blueshirts are 3-1-1 against Philly this season and 3-1-0 against Washington, as they look to improve upon those impressive marks.
With two more wins this weekend, the Rangers could be looking at a five-game win streak and a real chance at the postseason.
New York’s 2018 first-round selection, Vitali Kravtsov, has made it through quarantine and is now skating with the Rangers. He is close to entering the Rangers’ forward corps but appears to be a couple of games away from his 2020-21 debut. According to Vincent Z. Mercogliano of Lohud sports, his entrance into the lineup remains a mystery.
With Quinn’s return on the horizon, it is reasonable to suspect that the man in charge would like to see Kravtsov skate in person before penciling his name into the lineup. But after scoring 16 goals for Traktor in the KHL while on loan this season, it is a matter of when, not if, Kravtsov will be in the lineup.
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!