Rangers expect to rely on Igor Shesterkin to lead team to Game 7 win

Rangers to rely on Igor Shesterkin for Game 7
New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) stops a shot on goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
AP Photos

NEWARK — Jack Hughes is easily the best skater on the ice for the New Jersey Devils when they square off against the New York Rangers in Game 7 Monday night, but he hasn’t been the best player in the series. 

That distinction falls to the Rangers’ former Vezina-winning goaltender, and he’s the chief reason why the Blueshirts are so confident heading into another “winner-take-all” contest. 

“Igor (Shesterkin) is the best if not one of the best goalies in the NHL. It’s been great for us and he’s been outstanding for us,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant added. “He’s been our best player…last year was an incredible year but he’s right back at that stage. Evert night he’s making key saves for us.”

Gallant’s statement certainly has been fair. In six games this series, Shesterkin has tallied a .939 save percentage while giving up an excellent 1.79 goals against average. His save percentage is the top amongst all goaltenders throughout the playoffs of those who have made more than one start. His GAA is just behind Akira Schmid who was just chased off the ice in Game 6s 5-2 win by the Rangers. 

Shesterkin’s consistency has been the one constant for the Blueshirts throughout their series against the Devils. And his exploits haven’t been anything surprising to the rest of his roster.  

“He’s been incredible. Even when there’s any type of breakdown from our team, I think you have a lot of confidence he’s going to make the save for you, no matter what situation it is. He’s definitely locked in. He wants to win, he’s engaged,” Patrick Kane said Monday morning. 

As good as Shesterkin has been though, it’ll be up to the rest of the Rangers to find a way to solve Schmid for the second consecutive game after three straight games of being stifled. With a power play unit that is just 3/21 in their last four games, New York will need every ounce of talent and execution in front of their goaltender to come away with another Game 7 win. 

New York has won seven of their last eight Game 7s with two goaltenders manning the fort. While Henrik Lundqvist was a big part of that, Shesterkin has begun to write his own legacy as a member of the Rangers recently as well. Even with players that have competed with both Lundqvist and Shesterkin, New York remains supremely confident going into a “winner-take-all” contest.

“Goaltending. And we’ve got a pretty damn good one,” Chris Kreider explained when asked about why the team’s been so successful in Game 7s. “He (Shesterkin) has been our best player for a long time.”

For the Rangers to move on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the rest of the team will need to step up. In the end, though, it’ll all come down to goaltending as it so often does in the postseason. 

And New York has the best going into Monday night right now. 

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