Rangers: How much blame does Igor Shesterkin deserve for his struggles this season?

New York Rangers  goalie Igor Shesterkin (31) gets focussed in the first period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

There are few things to criticize about the New York Rangers this season. Every aspect of the lineup has been playing almost perfect hockey, giving the Blueshirts one of the best records in the entire NHL. But with that being said, there are still some imperfections found throughout the year.

Surprisingly, one of the few players not living up to high expectations is Igor Shesterkin. The elite goaltender has dazzled in every season of his career, but his skills have seemingly regressed through the first 26 games of the year. He’s earned 10 wins in his first 16 starts, but something still feels off about Shesterkin’s game. And the worst part is, none of it is really his fault.

The Rangers have been playing poorly with Shesterkin in net recently

It’s safe to say that Shesterkin’s last two starts in net have been his worst two of the season so far. Across those recent games, he’s allowed a total of nine goals and collected a combined .859 SV%. Both matchups were against non-playoff teams, games that the Rangers should have easily won.

It’s hard to blame Shesterkin for these numbers, however, when the Rangers’ defense was playing as badly as they were in front of him. Any elite goaltender can make attempts to keep their team in the game with their own personal success, but it becomes difficult when the defense is consistently falling apart.

Rangers’ HC Peter Laviolette agrees that the defense is more to blame than anything else:

“What we do in front of him certainly factors in… There’s things that we can do better in our last couple games that he was in net.”

Peter Laviolette via Vince Mercogliano

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Shesterkin is still one of the top goaltenders in the NHL this season

It’s true that Shesterkin is having a bit of a down year this season, but his stats aren’t bad by any means. Perhaps the issue is that after playing perfectly across his whole career, any minor slip-up causes fans to overreact.

Shesterkin’s 10 wins on the year have him placed at 10th overall in goaltenders across the league this season. His SV% has gone done and his GAA has gone up, and while it may not be what the Rangers are used to seeing, his stats are still among the best in the league.

The Rangers need to be patient with Shesterkin this season. Yes, he’s not put up similar numbers to past seasons. But it’s difficult to maintain that level of skill when he receives zero help from the defense in front of him. He’ll find his game one way or another, but some assistance from the rest of the team would be a big help.