One of New York’s boroughs saw a tenuous goaltender situation resolved Tuesday, when the Islanders officially signed top prospect Ilya Sorokin to a future deal for 2020-21.
On the other side of the river, though, the playoff qualifier-bound Rangers have their own dilemma in net heading into the resumption of play: who gets to be the starter.
Head coach David Quinn has two more weeks to figure it out, but in a Zoom media conference Monday after the opening of Phase 3 training camp, Quinn acknowledged it’s still a work in progress.
“The one position, probably more than any, these next three weeks are going to be pivotal for is the goaltenders,” Quinn said.
Alexander Georgiev is the nominal No. 1 goalie, as the 24-year-old made the most starts (32 of 70) in net this season and notched 17 wins with a 3.04 GAA. And then, of course, there’s 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist, who has earned his “King Henrik” moniker over a successful career in NYC that includes leading the Blueshirts to the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals – but this year, he’s almost been the No. 3 guy, even with 26 starts to his credit.
That’s because there’s a 23-year-old in the middle in Igor Shesterkin, who ostensibly stepped in over Lundqvist to be the No. 1 goalie when Georgiev was out, and went 10-2 with a 2.52 GAA in his 12 starts.
The youngsters are the future and have better numbers, but three of Lundqvist’s 10 wins this season came against Carolina, the Rangers’ first-round opponent, so he has the pedigree both now and then.
A tough choice for Quinn, who realistically can defend starting any of the three in Game 1.
“A lot is going to go into this decision because of the unique circumstances,” Quinn said. “I had a meeting with all three of them today, telling them how important the next three weeks are going to be. That being said, it’s not just about these last three weeks. There’s a lot of other things to take into consideration.”
Lundqvist, to his credit, said Monday that he is “taking it week-by-week” and “will give it my all” in camp, and Rangers president John Davidson – himself a former Blueshirts netminder – is confident in whatever decision Quinn and the coaching staff make.
“We’ll continue to have up-front communication with all the goaltenders, but this will be a coaching decision,” Davidson said via Zoom. “I’m comfortable that we have three good goaltenders. You never know how many you’re going to need in a situation like this, playing the possibility of five games in eight nights. So our job right now is to get everybody ready.”