That is no longer a premise upon which the Rangers can rely.
Shesterkin may be the front-runner for the Vezina trophy for the league’s best goalie in the regular season, recording a 2.07 goals against average and .935 save percentage, both tops among goalies with more than 10 starts. But in the two playoff games in Pittsburgh — the first playoff games of his career in front of hostile fans — he allowed 10 goals on 45 shots over three periods.
The Pittsburgh fans rode him hard in both games, taunting him with chants of “Eeee-gor. Eeee-gor.”
Shesterkin is not the direct cause of the Rangers’ sudden decline, but he has not been nearly as dominant as he was in the regular season, and has been unable to bail his teammates out, as he did so often for months.
Gallant pulled Shesterkin from both losses in Pittsburgh, which does not give Rangers fans a comforting feeling as they look ahead. The backup, Alexandar Georgiev, played the same number of periods (three) as Shesterkin in the two games in Pittsburgh and allowed only two goals on 31 shots.
But Gallant eliminated the possibility of a goalie controversy by declaring that Shesterkin would be back in the crease on Wednesday. His defense for that decision required only five words.
“Best goalie in the league,” Gallant said.
He also emphasized that three of the goals on Monday were tipped in, relieving some of the blame from Shesterkin. But no matter how many pucks are tipped into the net, or how often goalies are screened and unable to see the incoming shot, they detest being scored upon, often taking it personally, and Shesterkin seemed rattled.
After the Penguins’ sixth goal, a redirected shot that Jeff Carter deflected down between the pads, Shesterkin skated out of the goal mouth to his left in frustration, his head tilted back as if he were rolling his eyes skyward over the onslaught. It was the fifth goal he had allowed in the period.