When the New York Rangers return to action and face the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs, head coach David Quinn will have an interesting decision. With three capable goaltenders on the roster, he will have to choose one to start the series at their designated hub city. It will not quite be such an easy decision after the NHL has taken a long break due to the coronavirus pandemic. With players scattered across the globe in isolation, Quinn cannot be sure what will be returning to him when training camp resumes.
Ranger’s president John Davidson acknowledged this on Thursday during a video press conference. “I know that we’ll have the three guys here, [Georgiev], Shesterkin and Hank, and I think all three are excited,” Davidson said. “I know Hank has been skating. This is going to be a coach’s decision. That’s who it’s up to. The coaches make decisions. I think they’re going to watch and see how camp goes. This is going to be a battle.”
While acknowledging that the decision is going to be made during the resumed training camps, there is a case to be made for each of them heading into the resumption of play.
It doesn’t matter that Lundqvist hardly played the final weeks of the season before the league was shut down. This could be about the experience, and the King has plenty of that.
He also has a solid track record against Carolina during the last two seasons. In 2018-19, he was 2-1 with a .964 save pct. and 1.34 GAA, while this season he went 3-0 with a .947 save pct. and 2.33 GAA. vs. the Canes.
As noted earlier, Lundqvist has actually been on ice while home in Sweden, skating with his brother. It is not known, but also not likely that Shesterkin or Georgiev has been on ice. This may give him a bit of an advantage heading into camp.
Nothing better than seeing 👑 Henrik Lundqvist “back at it” in Sweden today, and interesting to note he’s in the new Bauer UltraSonic pads. For more on the line and that revolutionary knee stack that gives away he’s wearing it: https://t.co/iBtC6gacRl pic.twitter.com/hDKfiDY7Lw
— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) May 11, 2020
His effort on Nov. 7 against the Hurricanes was one that stands out, as he recorded 45 saves in a 4-2 win at PNC Arena.
“Without question, that one game down in Raleigh, he actually stole the game,” Davidson said. “He was outstanding. It was the best game I saw him play all season long.”
Lundqvist deserves and will get the chance to show that he should be the starting goaltender against Carolina.
Shesterkin was anointed the number one goalie by Quinn back in February, something that was well-deserved. Since being recalled from Hartford in January, he has compiled a record of 10-2-0 with a 2.52 GAA and .932 save percentage in 12 starts.
Shesterkin also has some playoff and international experience to help him. While playing Juniors in Russia, he had a 12–7 record in 19 playoff games, along with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage, along with four shutouts to help MHK Spartak win the league championship. Shesterkin also represented Russia and was one of the best goaltenders at the 2018 World Championships in Denmark. He finished with two victories, both shutouts, and a 1.46 goals-against average with a .942 save percentage.
The 24-year-old has faced the Hurricanes once this year, recording 27 saves in a 5-2 win at PNC Arena on Feb. 21.
It is likely that the only way Georgiev gets the start is if he completely outplays the other two during training camp.
It is not like Georgiev has been poor this year, as he has gone 17-14-2 with a 3.04 GAA and .910 save percentage, but has also not faced Carolina this season.
Georgiev does have international experience, helping Russia win the silver medal at the 2016 World Juniors, and then helping the Russians take the bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships.
“We’ve got three guys going in and I like our depth in that position,” Davidson said. “I can hardly wait, so whenever the puck drops for training camp, just to watch. There’s going to be a lot of subsets, a lot of small stories that are going to turn into big stories. Who is going to go and be the starting goaltender? If it’s a best-of-5 series, that’s not a long series and you want to get off to a good start. The coaches are going to have to make that decision.”
It is actually a nice decision to have, coming off an unwanted, long break in the season.