The New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins engaged in a tight battle on Feb. 26. New York and Pittsburgh could face one another in the postseason this year, and it would be quite a series if it mirrored this game. While the game did not feature much goal scoring from either team, it was a close contest with many physical altercations throughout.
The Pens would score the game’s only goal during the third period courtesy of Evgeni Malkin. Goaltenders Tristan Jarry and Igor Shesterkin were the top players of the game, as the former finished with a shutout while the latter was quite impressive as well. Here are three takeaways from the Rangers’ 1-0 loss to the Penguins.
Shesterkin Has Another Solid Performance
New York’s starting netminder continues to make his case to not only be in the running for the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender but the Hart Trophy as well. The Hart Trophy is awarded to the best overall player in the NHL and is rarely awarded to a goaltender. Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens was the last goaltender to win the award after the 2014-15 season.
Recently, since the Rangers returned from the All-Star break, Shesterkin has allowed one goal in each of the games versus the Boston Bruins, the Ottawa Senators, the Washington Capitals, and the Penguins. Ryan Reaves commented on the Moscow native’s significance to New York, “You need a good goaltender to win, and obviously, we have one of the best in the league. I think a lot of people just like to say, ‘Oh, your goaltender is holding you in games,’ but he’s part of the team” (from ‘Rangers unbothered by misleading analytics with Igor Shesterkin in net,’ New York Post, 2/26/22).
Reaves continued to say about Shesterkin, “We need that guy going just like we need every other guy going. He’s playing unbelievable, he’s definitely stolen some games, but other guys in that locker room have done the same thing. You need every piece going during the season and into the playoffs, and definitely in the playoffs.”
In 34 games played for New York, the 26-year-old goaltender has a record of 25-6-3, a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.95, and a save percentage (SV%) of .941. Since the return from the All-Star break, Shesterkin’s SV% in the last five games has been .969, .939, .967, .973, and .962. As the year has progressed, he has become the Rangers’ most valuable player.
Backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev has a good chance of starting the second game of a back-to-back against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 27. If that is the case, look for Shesterkin to be back in net for the Rangers against the St. Louis Blues on March 2. His performance will have significance in how much momentum New York has toward the end of the regular season with the goal of returning to the playoffs.
Rangers’ Penalty-Killing Game Streak Snapped by Malkin
The Rangers had been denying teams power-play goals (PPG) in the previous four contests before the game against the Penguins. New York had allowed a power-play goal against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 1. The opposition went a combined 0-for-9 over the next four games before Pittsburgh finished 1-for-2 during the game on Feb. 26.
Malkin has five PPGs and 11 power-play points (PPP) in 18 games played during 2021-22 for the Penguins. Despite missing the first few months of the year recovering from offseason knee surgery, he has shown why he has been one of the core players for the Pens for over a decade. He has been one of the best players on the team’s power-play during that time as well.
Rangers Versus Penguins Would Be An Anticipated Playoff Series
New York and Pittsburgh are scheduled to play one another three more times before the conclusion of the 2021-22 regular season. Based upon the game on Feb. 26, the two teams could be engaged in a competitive playoff series if they end up playing one another this year during the first or second round of the postseason. The first matchup between the two franchises resembled a close, evenly matched contest that featured physicality.
When the Rangers were playoff contenders last during the previous decade, they played the Penguins in a playoff series in three consecutive years. New York was victorious against Pittsburgh in each of the series during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons before the Penguins defeated the Rangers in a series during the 2015-16 year. If the teams end up facing one another this year in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it will be an anticipated series that would add to the ongoing divisional rivalry between the franchises.
The Rangers and Penguins are two franchises with postseason aspirations in 2021-22. Each of the organizations has led the Metropolitan Division at some point this season. The most recent game between New York and Pittsburgh could be the start of memorable matchups between two of the more competitive teams in the Metro this year.