Igor Shesterkin played in the same team as Andrei Vasilevskiy through various iterations of the Russian national team. But the Rangers keeper wouldn’t quite say he played with his Lightning counterpart.
“Don’t play,” Shesterkin said without a translator after Rangers’ victory over Carolina in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series. “I was on the bench”
Although Shesterkin is expected to walk away with the Vezina Trophy this season, Vasilevskiy is the standard to which he (and every other NHL goaltender) aspires. Vasilevskiy, 27, has a trophy cabinet that includes the 2019 Vezina, the 2021 Conn Smythe and two Stanley Cup rings.
“He’s the best goalkeeper in the world right now,” Shesterkin said.
In the first two playoff rounds, the Rangers had a huge advantage in net thanks to Shesterkin. Most of their run was against backup goaltenders due to injuries suffered by Penguins’ Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith and Hurricanes’ Frederik Andersen.
If they’ve had it easy for the past month, this is about to end. Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin will be the direct line to the Eastern Conference Finals. They are widely regarded as the two best players at their position in the world, and it seems likely that whoever emerges victorious will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I feel like sometimes you like to oversimplify the game of hockey and make it individual players versus individual players,” Chris Kreider said Tuesday. “In reality, it’s 20 guys against 20 guys.
“At the same time, he continued, I think the two best goalkeepers play against each other. »
“I think it’s pretty unanimous they’re the two best keepers in the league,” said Rangers winger Barclay Goodrow, who played with both. “I don’t think anyone can make an argument for that.”
Rangers don’t plan to change what has worked for them offensively. There is no secret sauce to beat Vasilevskiy.
“If Vasilevskiy can see the pucks, he’s going to save them,” Goodrow said. “So we have to paint it blue, we have to take his eyes out. We have to make life extremely difficult for him. Create second chance moves and be in the crease. Just making his job difficult. And obviously we know his playoff record, what he can do, but it’s up to us to make his job harder than it needs to be.
It’s not too different from what you’d hear a hockey player say about beating just about any goaltender. Vasilevskiy is simply better than the others.
“He can do full splits in the blink of an eye,” Brian Engblom, Lightning TV analyst for Bally Sports, told The Post. “I still think he has the fastest legs of any National Hockey League goaltender. And because of that, he can contort himself into ridiculous positions and still pull on those legs and it never seems to bother him at all.
Vasilevskiy can keep the Lightning in games he doesn’t deserve to be in. He stepped up his playoff game with regularity. He’s probably the only player in the league that Rangers don’t have an automatic advantage against with Shesterkin.
However, it would be the same if the names were reversed.
“I don’t think their game plan will be entirely different from ours,” Kreider said. “I have to make it difficult for the opposing goalkeeper. Both goalies are so amazing on the first shots. Are so mobile, so good side by side. So good with their desperation. Obviously very good at playing the puck.
“I think the focus will be on trying to go inside, as it has been. Trying to make plans. Try to build traffic and try to make that it is difficult for them to see the blows.
New York Post