Despite his struggles in the team’s first round playoff series, Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin will start against the Wednesday during a crucial win-or-go-home Game 5 matchup at Madison Square Garden.
Shesterkin, who is widely considered one of the best netminders in the league, and is the betting-odds favorite to take home the Vezina Trophy this season, got pulled from the Rangers’ last two matchups in the opening series after uncharacteristically porous performances from the 26-year-old.
Head coach Gerard Gallant yanked Shesterkin in back-to-back losses — first during a 4–7 matchup during Saturday’s Game 3, where the netminder gave up 4 goals in the 1st period, and then yesterday during a blowout 7–2 Game 4 that saw Shesterkin allow 6 scored in 2 periods.
Yet, when Gallant was asked after Monday’s crucial loss whether he planned to start his star goalie with the team’s back against the wall on Wednesday, the coach didn’t hesitate to offer his vote of confidence.
“He’s the best goalie in the league,” Gallant said. “So, I’m going with him.”
Shesterkin recorded an NHL-leading .935 save percentage during the regular season, while also boasting a league-best 2.07 goals against average. Yet, his play during the postseason has been mediocre at best, with a .905 save percentage and 4.02 goals against average.
“He’s probably really frustrated,” Gallant said of his star player.
Still, the coach added that he has “all the confidence in the world” in Shesterkin, and will put him in the net before the home crowd in Midtown Manhattan.
“He’ll be back in there and be ready to win the next game,” Gallant said.
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The Rangers have failed to help their goalie much, as Shesterkin has faced 169 shots on goal through 4 games during this Stanley Cup Playoffs — which is 8 more than the second–most in Nashville’s Connor Ingram, and 13 more than any other goalie.
He has also led all netminders so far this playoffs with 153 saves.
“I’m more disappointed in our team than [Shesterkin],” Gallant added. “At least three pucks were deflected by him. But we just played a soft game.”
The Blue Shirts entered the playoffs as the 2nd seed in the Metropolitan Division with a 52-24-6 record (110 points), while Pittsburgh earned the 3rd spot at 46-25-11 (103 points).
The two teams head back to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night for Game 5. If the Rangers win, they will travel back to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Friday, before a potential Game 7 on Sunday.
The winner of this series will face off against the victor of the series between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins.