Hartnett: Shesterkin Showing He's No Ordinary Rookie Despite Small Sample Size

Rangers Goaltender Has Four Wins In Five Starts

Sean Hartnett
February 06, 2020 - 1:01 pm

Five games are a small sample, but sometimes five games can be enough evidence of a young player’s potential for greatness.

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Rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin rolled off four wins through his first five career starts. His latest victory came in a 27-save performance against a high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs team that ranks in the top-five in goals for per game (3.57), goals for (193) power play percentage (25.2) and shots per game (33.6).

Though the Rangers pounced for two goals in six seconds late in the first period, Shesterkin’s key saves were equally as vital in securing a 5-3 win on Wednesday. Early into the second period, he turned away Mitchell Marner’s shot through traffic, then denied a flurry of Zach Hyman saves on the doorstep after the Rangers were caught on a 3-on-2 rush.

That’s the kind of composure that Shesterkin possesses. His seasoning against KHL pros has given him a leg up compared to typical NHL rookie netminders. He’s played in high-pressure situations before and spent parts of five seasons playing under high expectations for SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers plays in his first NHL game against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 7, 2019, at Madison Square Garden.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

So, this isn’t an ordinary rookie we’re talking about. Shesterkin is a 24-year-old whose path to the NHL was forged through Gagarin Cup playoff battles against elite-level opposition. There’s a swagger that he plays with between the pipes. He handles the puck with confidence and isn’t afraid to launch stretch passes into the offensive zone.

Earlier in Wednesday’s contest, Shesterkin shut the door on Auston Matthews by outstretching his left pad to deny a cross-ice feed. Though Matthews would later score twice – in the second and third period, the highlight reel save drew “oohs” and “aahs” from Toronto media. It’s not every day that you see Matthews robbed on a point-blank chance.

After sealing the victory, Shesterkin has taken his line to 4-1-0 with a .922 save percentage and 2.61 goals-against average.

While it’s unclear how the Rangers will navigate a three-goalie carousel, but Shesterkin has certainly made the case for a greater bite of the apple in The Big Apple.

Follow Sean on Twitter: @HartnettHockey