Wednesday was a tough emotional day for the New York Rangers, their fans, and of course Henrik Lundqvist. Now that the dust has settled the first player emerging from the windstorm of the buyout is Igor Shesterkin.
Last February head coach David Quinn named Shesterkin the team’s number one goalie, which was the first step in the process that resulted in the buyout of Lundqvist. The 24-year-old goalie, who will turn 25 in December, performed admirably in his 12 starts posting a 10-2 record while having one of the best Ranger players to ever wear the sweater on the bench with him.
Come opening night when Shesterkin looks over at the team’s bench he will see Alexandar Georgiev backing him up. The dreams of SHesterkin’s childhood will become a reality the moment he leads the team onto the ice for that first game of the 2020-2021 season;
The team is in his hands now.
Pressure All On Him
Shesterkin has been a winner at every level he has played. He plays with a calmness that is uncanny for a player with 12 games under his belt. A level of confidence regardless of a goal scored against him or the score of a game spreads to his teammates. He has a weapon the defense will come to appreciate and expect over time, he can handle the puck on his goalie stick.
He can pass from the far corners of the ice, can clear the puck from behind his net on a dump and chase plays, the Russian netminder can and will shoot at an empty net. Shesterkin can be a third defenseman on the ice if a player needs to pass a puck back into their own end when the opportunity calls for it.
With all of the skill he has shown, there is one thing he will need to experience on the ice, game by game. The Madison Square Garden Ranger fans. The true judgment of how he handles pressure will be the first time a bad play is recorded on the ice.
The constant question by the New York media is another area Shesterkin has little experience in. The never-ending questioning and second-guessing is something he has never been through. It’s not as important as his play during a game, yet it has frazzled the best of players in years past so he will need to learn what to say and not say.
Up For The Challenge
Shesterkin has been a winner at every level he has competed in. In his five seasons in the KHL, he had a record of 79-14-13. His best season there 2016-’17 where he won 27 games, had a 1.67 goals-against average and a .9.37 save percentage.
His success carried over to North America this past season when he played for the team’s minor league affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack. In 25 games he posted 17 wins and a .934 save percentage. The man is a proven winner, though a final decision on how good he can be will be determined once he p0lays a full season in the NHL.
The baton has been handed over from Lundqvist to Shesterkin now. He will have one of the best teams in recent years playing in front of him which will include the number one overall pick in this year’s draft ( presumably Alexis Lafreniere) when the start of 2020-2021 begins.
Solid defense in front of him along with some of the best scorers and playmakers in the league should make his game a little easier, something Lundqvist had rarely in his 15 years.
The new number one goalie in New York will leave up to the hype. He has all the skills and weapons to be a game-changer, a goalie who can handle the pressure of the opposing team, the pressure of the fan base, and the pressure he puts on himself to be the winner Rangerstown needs him to be.
It going to be strange to hear the announcer on game day introduce “Igor Shesterkin” as the netminder starting in goal most nights.
Shesterkin has earned the right to lead the Blueshirts onto the ice on game day. Like the goalies who have preceded him, he will be the one to stand tall and carry the Rangers back to the playoffs and hopefully to the Stankey Cup Finals.