Rangers can’t expect Igor Shesterkin to bail them out every game

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Spectacular. Outstanding.

Those are just a couple of the adjectives the Rangers used to describe the performance of their No. 1 goaltender Igor Shesterkin in their past two games, which resulted in their first two wins of the regular season. Shesterkin had a staggering 71 saves combined against the Canadiens and Maple Leafs on Saturday and Monday.

“We didn’t have our best game and sometimes you need your goalie to steal one for you — and he definitely did it [Monday night],” defenseman Jacob Trouba said after the most recent win, at Toronto. “Like I said, we weren’t our best, but we found a way to grind through it. We gave up way too many shots, way too many chances, but he was there. I give him all the credit tonight.”

Here’s another adjective for you: Unsustainable.

Following their 2-1 overtime win against the Maple Leafs, the Rangers were well aware that Shesterkin was the only thing standing between them and a five-to-six goal loss. Shesterkin put on a clinic in OT, not only making big-moment saves, but also aggressively playing the puck to act almost as a fourth skater during the three-on-three extra period.

Rangers Igor Shesterkin
Igor Shesterkin makes a glove save during the Rangers’ win over the Maple Leafs on Oct. 18, 2021.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Relying on their goalie is not a new concept for the Rangers, who had Henrik Lundqvist as the face of the franchise for 15 years. Whether it was preseason or the playoffs, Lundqvist bailed the Rangers out of too many games to count during his career.

It’s too early to tell if Shesterkin, who is in his third season with the Rangers, can shoulder the sort of workload Lundqvist faced night in and night out. The 25-year-old netminder certainly has the talent and showmanship, but there are lingering concerns about Shesterkin’s durability since he has run in to a couple lower-body injuries early on.

The Maple Leafs nearly doubled the Rangers’ shot total Monday night, with a 41-23 edge, and Toronto held a 9-6 advantage in high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Of course, the Rangers dressed a lineup with one-too-many depth players because two of their top offensive producers, Ryan Strome (COVID-19 protocol) and Kaapo Kakko (injured reserve), were unavailable.

Those two will return to the lineup eventually, but there will surely be more personnel obstacles to clear in the future — and Shesterkin may not always be in net or able to put on the performance he did in the first two contests of the Rangers’ current four-game road trip.

“I think we’re feeding [other teams’] game a little bit too much,” Mika Zibanejad said Monday night. “When they have the momentum, we try to make plays to get out of it [rather] than playing a little bit simpler and just kind of working our way back into it. Not forcing as much, maybe?”

The Rangers’ success can’t be predicated on Shesterkin’s ability to stand on his head — even if his current .949 save percentage and 1.62 goals-against average say otherwise.

Head coach Gerard Gallant opted to go with a goalie-tandem approach during his tenures with Florida and Vegas, despite having clear No. 1’s in Roberto Luongo with the Panthers and Marc-Andre Fleury with the Golden Knights. Gallant has indicated he plans to do the same with the Rangers, which means Shesterkin may not always be there to save the day.

“We created the chances, like there was good chances there,” Gallant said. “We didn’t get a lot of shots, I agree one hundred percent. But when I look at the tape and see the chances we had, the same as the Dallas game [a loss in the Rangers’ only home match so far], I mean, there’s chances there. Goalies are good at the other end too and that happens.”



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