The book is still out on who will get the call to start in goal on Monday afternoon for the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup Qualifier against the Carolina Hurricanes, according to head coach David Quinn.
Veteran Henrik Lundqvist was called upon to make a surprise start in Game 1 on Saturday when rookie sensation Igor Shesterkin was deemed unfit to open the series.
While the Rangers cannot disclose the nature of Shesterkin’s injury, per NHL protocol, the 24-year-old netminder was seen in street clothes at Scotiabank Arena watching the Blueshirts drop Game 1 to the Hurricanes. That, at least, eliminates any possible concern involving COVID-19.
Shesterkin was considered the favorite to start in goal for the Rangers this postseason after his barnstorming start in the NHL. In 12 starts, he went 10-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
“We’re not sure if he’ll be ready for Game 2,” Quinn said.
Lundqvist — who has been the backbone to the Rangers’ brand for a decade-and-a-half — was coming off his worst regular season as a pro where he was seldom-used in the final two months before play was halted.
Regardless, he always performed well against the Hurricanes over his career, and Game 1 was no exception despite the loss.
Lundqvist made 34 saves on 37 shots where he was constantly left out to dry by a suspect — yet developing — Rangers defense. It’s nothing new for the 38-year-old, considering the blue line has been the Blueshirts’ Achilles heel for the better part of the last decade.
At least for one afternoon, though, Lundqvist turned back the clock and kept the Rangers in Game 1, which has to be a comforting sight for Quinn.
“I take every start as an opportunity to play the game, enjoy the game and try to help the team,” Lundqvist said. “I felt like I was moving well. There’s a couple of things that I need to adjust for the next game if I get an opportunity to play. We’ll see.”
Had the Rangers converted on any of their seven power-play opportunities, the conversation is much different heading into Monday.
That’s where credit to the Hurricanes is due. Over the last two seasons, they’ve shown an ability to adapt and beat a team in almost any style. They beat a defensive-first Islanders in the second round of the playoffs last year and in Game 1 on Saturday, completely shut down Rangers MVP and Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin.
By neutralizing him, the Rangers’ normally-overwhelming offense was far more timid, which will call for Quinn to make the proper adjustments, or else this series will quickly spiral out of control for the Rangers.