The New York Rangers have no shortage of star power, with many players pulling their weight to inch the team closer to the long-awaited Stanley Cup. The Blueshirts’ roster consists of goal scorers, elite playmakers, and lockdown defensemen- but there is one player whose worth is almost invaluable. For almost his entire career, Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been the backbone of the team, leading their locker room and stealing games day in and day out.
Inconsistent Rangers defense requires elite goaltending to steal games
It’s no secret that the Rangers have a rather inconsistent defensive corps. Adam Fox is the star of the defense, pairing on the top line with Ryan Lindgren. However, Fox is a more offensive-minded defenseman, and despite exceptional defensive skills, Lindgren can’t seem to avoid finding himself on the injury reserve each season. Although he is just 25 years old, Lindgren has yet to play in a full NHL season.
The problems within the Rangers’ defense run deeper than just the top line. Jacob Trouba is constantly in the penalty box, and Braden Schneider is in need of a new partner. In a unit that has as many issues as the Rangers’ defensive corps does, a world-class goaltender like Shesterkin is required to offset these weaknesses.
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Shesterkin’s record-setting 2022-23 season
Despite the defensemen in front of him playing inconsistently, Shesterkin still managed to have a record of 37-13-8 in the 2022-2023 season. Sitting at just one victory away from his 100th career win, Shesterkin’s young career has propelled him into the conversation as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
During games where the defensemen in front of Shesterkin look like pylons, he has the ability to transform into an impenetrable brick wall that stands strong enough for the Rangers to still pull off a close win. Although it may hurt his overall season stats, the Rangers are comfortable relying on Shesterkin for a large majority of their season.
“Considering they employed the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, New York sent Shesterkin out for a career-high 58 games in 2022-23, letting him dress in 70.7% of the team’s schedule. “via Forever Blueshirts
The Metropolitan division is filled with elite goal scorers
One of the most important factors in playoff success is where the Rangers finish in the regular season divisional standings. Towards the end of the season, every game matters, especially in an overly stacked Metropolitan division. It’s a close race every year, and the Rangers need to rely on Shesterkin to keep them in the running.
Playing in late-season divisional matchups is never easy for any team, but the pressure is on Shesterkin when facing some of the best offenses in the NHL. The Hurricanes and Devils are filled with elite talent, the Capitals and Penguins have generational talents in Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby respectively, and even teams such as the Islanders have new talent like Bo Horvat to bolster their roster.
Shesterkin will be the Rangers’ MVP
In order for the Rangers to prevail against these teams and earn a solid divisional playoff spot, Shesterkin will need to elevate his game to the next level. The offense can only help so much if the goaltender is letting in every shot. In a division where three or four teams have the potential to take home the Metropolitan title, Shesterkin must be the Rangers’ MVP in order to have a successful campaign.
“This isn’t just the New York Rangers; every team needs its best players to excel. Imagine the Devils if their top six struggled. Imagine the Hurricanes if that blueline fails. Each big dog in the Metropolitan will need what makes it special to be good if they survive this bloodbath division.”via Blue Line Station