‘Special’ skill sets Igor Shesterkin apart in Rangers’ goalie race

A grand pronouncement is neither necessary nor at all likely to be issued. But for David Quinn, it is just this simple.

“Whoever plays is the No. 1,” the coach said after unsurprisingly naming Igor Shesterkin as the starting netminder for Tuesday’s match in Winnipeg that will open a three-game trip for the Rangers. “So yeah, he’s the No. 1 goaltender [Tuesday] night.”

This will mark the first road start for Shesterkin, who has gone 5-1 with a .933 save percentage and 2.34 GAA in his first six NHL games. Cam Talbot went 6-1 in his first seven starts as a Ranger in 2013-14.

“I just think the swagger [Shesterkin] has is so necessary for that position,” Quinn said of the 24-year-old Russian. “He’s really good, he knows he’s really good, but it’s not in an arrogant way.

“He has a mentality, I think he can sense a game and what’s going to happen in it. He has a good pulse of the game and he’s got real good anticipation. I think he understands goaltending and the game of hockey.”

Igor Shesterkin
Igor ShesterkinPaul J. Bereswill

Shesterkin also possesses puck-handling ability that is rare. If the Rangers spend less time in their own end when No. 31 is in nets, it is probably not a coincidence. This netminder doesn’t simply move it to the nearest available outlet, he is constantly looking to launch a counterattack.

“I have to get used to it,” Chris Kreider said after Sunday’s 4-1 victory over LA in which the netminder was cranking out saucer passes to the neutral zone. “I’m coming back into the zone and I’m watching the puck sail over my head.

“The Russians all know, they understand what he’s going to do. I have to get used to it. It’s pretty special.”

This might come back to bite Shesterkin and the Rangers from time to time, but the risk-reward factor is overwhelmingly on their side.

“Big time,” Quinn said when asked how much the dynamic changes because of that ability. “I think one of the reasons St. Louis won the Stanley Cup is because of the way their goalie [Jordan Binnington] handled the puck.

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“The way people forecheck in this day and age, if you have a goalie that can handle the puck like that, it makes a big difference. One of the things about him is I think he’s going to get better at the practical side. He can do something that, you know, everyone ‘oohs and aahs’ when he makes a pass to the far blue line but the goalie-defense exchanges are a bigger part than the ‘oohing and aahing.’ “

The Blueshirts are off on Wednesday, then have a back-to-back in Minnesota on Thursday and Columbus on Friday. Unless something unforeseen develops, Shesterkin will get one of them. Chances are that Alexandar Georgiev will get the other as Henrik Lundqvist continues to practice every day.


Filip Chytil, who had a strong game on Sunday, joined Kaapo Kakko and Pavel Buchnevich up front on the second power-play unit during practice. Chytil, who hasn’t been on the power play since the team returned from its winter recess six games ago, replaced net-front presence Brendan Lemieux.

The Blueshirts otherwise skated with the same combinations they used against the Kings, with Phillip Di Giuseppe up with Chytil and Kakko on the third line while Lemieux worked with Greg McKegg and Brett Howden on the fourth unit.

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