The NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Rangers and Lightning figures to be a low-scoring affair this year, as the two teams feature stellar goalies at the top of their respective games.
Igor Shesterkin of the Blue Shirts and Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay are set to face off in Game 1 of the series on Wednesday, and the historic matchup will certainly be a defining feature of the contest as both teams look to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup.
Shesterkin, who led the NHL in Save Percentage and Goals Against Average this season, is a finalist for the Hart Trophy (the most prestigious player award in the sport), and is a shoe-in for the Vezina Trophy ( awarded to the NHL’s best goaltender).
The Russian-born Blue Shirt is in his 3rd season, and comes into the net after a historic-run by former Ranger Henrik Lundqvist.
Meanwhile, Vasilevskiy has played 8 years for the Lightning, as has dominated among the NHL’s best in recent seasons, and held down the net for the team’s last 2 seasons, when they hoisted the Stanley Cup.
“[Vasilevskiy] is the best goalie in the world right now,” Shesterkin said. “I think it’ll be a good battle.”
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Now looking for his 3rd-straight Cup win in goal, Vasilevskiy finds himself against the red-hot Shesterkin, who has recovered from a few poor performances earlier in the postseason to propel the team to their first Conference Finals appearance since they lost to the Lightning in the 2014–15 season.
In this postseason, Vasilevskiy has boasted a slightly better Save Percentage (.932) than Shesterkin (.928), and Shesterkin (37) has allowed 12 more goals than Vasilevski (25).
The Rangers have been fortunate this postseason not to run into a goaltender of Vasilevskiy’s caliber, as they have faced a series of backups — as Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith both missed time in the team’s series against Pittsburgh, and Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta were absent at times during the series against the Hurricanes.
Now, the Rangers’ hot-and-cold offense faces off against one of the best, with Game 1 coming on Wednesday night.
“It’s pretty unanimous, these are the 2 best goalies in the league,” said New York’s Barclay Goodrow, who came to Madison Square Garden after winning two titles with Vasilevskiy and the Lightning.
Still, after playing with both netminders, Goodrow took his current teammate.
“I’ll take Shesty, all day,” he said.