Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev makes a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 14, 2018, at Madison Square Garden.

Hartnett: Alexandar Georgiev Impresses With Historic Performance In Rangers Win Over Maple Leafs

Sean Hartnett
February 11, 2019 - 2:09 pm
Categories: 

Rangers backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev put in a sterling performance on his 23rd birthday to earn a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Georgiev has never been afraid to challenge shooters. It’s a different kind of style compared to the Rangers’ no. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who plays very deep, cedes net coverage and relies on quick reactions.

A successful goaltender can be aggressive like Georgiev, or can be near the opposite end of the spectrum like Lundqvist. Georgiev often plays at the top of the paint, daring shooters to beat him.

On Sunday, Georgiev recorded 55 saves on 56 shots against. He saved all 23 shots on four Toronto power plays.

Along the way, he frustrated high-caliber opponents time and time again. Nazem Kadri was denied 12 times, John Tavares was turned away eight times, Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau each couldn’t solve Georgiev on five shots apiece. Mitch Marner couldn’t get one past the Rangers’ backup on four tries.

A turnover by Tony DeAngelo allowed Kasperi Kapanen to streak into the Rangers’ end and a perfectly-placed wrist shot spoiled Georgiev’s shutout bid. The Maple Leafs are an elite team and certainly can be classified as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. To steal a win against Toronto isn’t an easy feat on most nights. A workload of 56 shots against, including 22 in the first period, presents an enormous degree of difficulty.

Georgiev’s 55 saves were the second-most a Rangers goaltender has made in a game in franchise history (since the NHL began to track saves in 1955-56). Franchise icon Mike Richter holds the Rangers’ single-game franchise record for saves from when he turned away 59 shots on Jan. 31, 1991 at Vancouver.

In addition, Georgiev’s total was the most by any Rangers goaltender in a game that has ended in regulation in franchise history, dating back to the time that saves were first tracked. It's also the most saves any Ranger netminder has made at Madison Square Garden in team history.

MORE: Hartnett: McLeod Trade Allows Rangers Once Again To Focus On Developing Youth

This kind of performance, against a powerhouse team loaded with sharpshooters, speaks to Georgiev’s potential. Forget about his 8-9-0 record and .905 save percentage. The Rangers’ defense has at its best been a work in progress. This is a team that is far removed from the 2013-14 Eastern Conference champion roster, which included Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi’s best years.

Georgiev has allowed just one goal in three of his last five appearances. As a backup, his job is to perform when called upon. He’s shown that he’s a real competitor who plays with outward confidence. You can just see it flowing out of him in the way he defends his net.

Time will tell whether Georgiev can establish himself as a no. 1 NHL netminder. Former Ranger backups Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta previously excelled in understudy duty to earn full-time starter gigs with other organizations. Call it a hunch, but I’m inclined to think that Georgiev has “starter stuff” and teams around the league are keeping an eye on him.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey.