Now that there is an official start date for the continuation and conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the New York Rangers have one important decision to make. Should Igor Shesterkin or Henrik Lundqvist start against the Carolina Hurricanes? With about five weeks left to go until that decision must be made, let’s take a look into who deserves the start and why.
Youth Versus Experience
The two goaltenders are at completely different times of their career. Shesterkin finally made his debut this calendar year in January, and showed some serious skill through just 12 starts. Lundqvist has been “the guy” for the Rangers for 15 years. With this upcoming series on July 30th being a best-of-5 play-in series, it’s all or nothing.
Lundqvist, despite his lackluster performances over the past three seasons, is still regarded as one of the best goaltenders in not only Rangers history, but National Hockey League history. When all is said and done, his place in the rafters of Madison Square Garden, as well as the NHL Hall Of Fame, is a sure bet. But, there is one thing keeping him from being in the same category as Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy, lifting the Stanley Cup.
The Rangers announced just over two years ago that their current team game-plan would be thrown out, hence a full rebuild. The team moved away from players that helped build an impressive and successful run throughout the early-to-mid 2010s. Players like Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh were all dealt to opposing teams. After successful drafting and trades, in addition to a growing farm system with their AHL affiliate, The Hartford Wolfpack, the Rangers are now much closer to being a yearly playoff contender.
Continuing the Rebuild?
This also rings true with the goaltending position. A third goaltender was used this season in addition to Shesterkin and Lundqvist. Alexandar Georgiev, 24-years-old, started 32 games this season and held a record of 17-14-2. Despite being another option, his future with the Rangers remains unknown. Especially since his contract ends at the conclusion of this season. With this being a best-of-5, all-or-nothing series, the Rangers front office would likely want to see someone that they can depend on for years to come. Georgiev just hasn’t shown that kind of dependability in his time with the Rangers.
Shesterkin, in his short amount of time at the NHL level, has shown a very promising upside. After having video game-esque numbers in the Kontinental Hockey League, the hype began circulating that he would be the successor of “King Hank’s” reign. Currently, he is on his way to the Rangers practice facility in Tarrytown, New York.
Riding the Hot Hand?
The Rangers have a unique dilemma with these two goalies. They can ride the hot hand, by choosing either of them.
For Shesterkin, he won 10 of his 12 starts this season. That is impressive considering that these were his first 12 starts against NHL-tier talent. His stat-line shows that he saved .932 percent of the shots he faced, and only allowed an average of 2.52 goals-per-game.
For Lundqvist, he got to see Carolina in all three games this season. In those three match-ups, he was able to be a brick-wall for the Rangers and give them a 3-0 series victory in regular season play. He held Carolina to just seven goals and saved .947 percent of the shots faced. Aside from those three games, this was one of the worst seasons of his storied career. With a 10-12-3 record over 26 starts, along with a 3.16 GAA, it was a season to forget all together.
The Last Chance
One last thing to consider in this argument, is the fact that this is the last chance for Lundqvist to win the Stanley Cup in New York. He is still under contract with the Rangers for next season, but with the emergence of Shesterkin, the possibility of a buy-out is looking a lot more likely with each passing game. The time is now for him to try and capture the one thing missing from his trophy case.
We have all seen Lundqvist succeed in the playoffs, so why shouldn’t he be given one last chance. While his record of 61-65 isn’t magical, diving deeper into the performances of those games paints a much bigger picture. With a .922 save percentage and only allowing 2.28 goals per game, he was consistent in net for much of his playoff career.
Who Gets The Nod
Despite the argument having strong points for both goaltenders, to answer the question of who should be in net for game one of the play-in series, it should be Shesterkin. This opportunity at playoff experience cannot be missed. As the “Lundqvist chapter” ends in the Rangers history book, seeing Shesterkin in playoff action, now, could paint a picture of the future.
At the end of the day, even though this is still very much a Stanley Cup Playoff, the Rangers need to look at this as a look into the future. Can these young players create a sustainable, playoff-contending team, year-after-year? Giving Shesterkin the chance now, only benefits the future.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images