First impressions of Alexandar Georgiev

(Photo by David Kirouac/ Getty Images)

Last night, in an otherwise meaningless game, goaltender Alexandar Georgiev made his NHL debut, stopping 38 shots in an impressive performance.  The young Russian was originally an undrafted free agent who attended the Rangers prospect camp this past summer, after an impressive stint in the Finnish Liiga.  Georgiev didn’t come completely out of nowhere; he helped backstop Russia to a silver medal in the 2016 World Junior Championships.  So, what do the Rangers have in this young tender?  Let’s take a look.

Now, I am going to qualify this with the fact that this was only one game.  However, you can glean quite a bit of information from his technical abilities and project based on the observation of his physical tools.  I would certainly leave this discussion open for further analysis, but here is what I saw from 60 minutes of the young lad…

The Good

There was an awful lot of good.  Let’s start with his movement.  He is a balanced skater with solid edgework and quick transitions.  He plays (at least last night) at average crease depth and gives himself the ability to transition laterally with minimal exertion, keeping his lateral pushes short and clean.  If you caught the post-game last night, Steve Valiquette had a nice lay-term breakdown of what makes his lateral movement so effective, so check that out here. 

To Valiquette’s point, his head movement guides his puck-tracking, driving down into his lateral slides, but using enough core strength to recover without overweighing or losing his momentum.  It’s a tricky balance, and the explanation sounds a bit technical, but let me try to explain.  When sliding in the butterfly, ideally, you would keep your weight balanced into the middle of your body, using your core muscles for power and your legs for direction.  When a goaltender needs to travel a greater distance or move laterally faster, the cheat is to use your body momentum to help force you across the crease more powerfully.  The downside to this is that you are no longer actively balancing your body with your core, and your body weight weighs down your recovery.  It’s a dead weight.  Georgiev uses his body weight to drive down to the ice when necessary but is body conscious enough to re-engage his core when he is recovering.

The drive down also reinforces your upper and lower body connection.  This is why the core engagement is so important.  If your upper and lower body are disconnected, you open up holes above your pads and below your hands.  The only thing that brings your body together like that is your core muscles.  This motion of driving down toward the shot ensures that connection is maintained.

For a better idea, check out this GIF from our friend Shayna (who is a must follow by the way @HayyyShayyy).  As you can see on the first push, Georgiev has to drive more power in to the slide because of the distance.  You can physically see the weight he is driving into the ice looking for the seal if the shot beats him to the spot.  You will also notice, that on the transition back to the center, the distance he is covering is much smaller, so his slide is shorter and quicker, and noticeably less weight driving into the ice.  This is only possibly because he re-engaged his core once his original slide was complete and was able to remove that weight from the ice surface and create less friction on the way back.

Now, let’s take a look at his post-integration.

It’s a little tough to see in this GIF, but Georgiev’s post integration is solid and smooth.  When I say post-integration, I am talking about his ability to slide from a puck-facing angle to a posture of protecting the side net on the dead angle.  The technique Georgiev is employing is refered to as the “reverse VH” or “RVH” for short.  The goal is to create a seal with the toe of the pad to the post and rely on a leaning technique to seal the upper portion of the net.  The post then acts as an anchor you can push off of to reengage your angle.  This example is especially difficult because the play transitioned behind the net quickly, and he had to integrate on the opposite side from his body momentum.

Despite all these technical skills that Georgiev possesses, the most important take away I had from watching him last night was the patience in his movements.  He is compact; he doesn’t have much in the way of excess movement or a tendency to become overly aggressive as the play breaks down.  These are very difficult skills to teach as there is a huge mental component to them.  The fact that at 22 years-old that foundation is already in place makes it easier to improve the other facets of his game.  Check out these two GIF’s below:

In the first GIF, he is facing down a broken play and potential 3-on-1.  There is a moment of hedging, as you can see his feet spread a bit as he is tempted into the butterfly.  He recognized the drop pass, made on quick shuffle step over and executed his save.  He then re-engaged his core and slide into the path of the rebound.  Textbook.

The second GIF to me is actually more impressive.  You’ll notice that as he engages the post, you can see Georgiev sneak a look at the slot to see the attacking player bearing down.  Knowing he is there is a huge piece of this save.  One he recognizes the target, he leads with his eyes and drives down into the ice to close any holes on the in-tight shot.  The rebound was a bit dangerous, but that is a product of the proximity of the shot and he was still in position to deal with it, post-recovery.

The Bad

Now, I don’t want to give anyone in the impression that I am talking about the second coming of Henrik Lundqvist here.  I wanted to highlight the technical skills that Georgiev possesses, because it supports my overall impression of his abilities.  This is not to say his technique does not have its faults.  They aren’t major and are certainly correctable, but Benoit Allaire will have to be very cognizant that sometimes when you correct a technical flaw, you may take away something that helps another part of his game work.  I’ll explain more in a bit.

As I mentioned above, Georgiev is a strong skater with good edgework and lateral movement.  However, when he is moving laterally up high, he tends to have a narrow base to work with and widens out when he sets in his stance.  This opens up a couple issues.  First, it creates a bit of a “bobbing” motion when he is shuffling laterally.  This happens because with each step, he needs to be ready to engage the shot.  In order to do this, his naturally higher body position needs to drop down, and then pop back up to move again.  Second, if a shot comes through traffic when he isn’t engaged with the shot, you could find some goals sneaking through if he is tracking them properly. If you look at the first GIF in the post, you can see this a bit in action.  It’s nothing more than a hitch in his movement, and I’d be confident that Allaire could correct it pretty easily.

While Georgiev’s post-intregration is well executed, his recoveries out are a bit choppy.  The transition in and out of the RVH is almost rhymic, with a rocking motion your body uses to reengage your edges.  It looks to me like Georgiev is only relying his body strength to force his way out of this pose, without assistance from the post or his momentum.  Again, correctable.

His setup in his stance and general standing lateral movement is also a bit rough.  I could just be spoiled by watching Henrik Lundqvist for the past decade, as he is on a different level.  Now, when I mentioned above about correcting something and inadvertently taking something away, this is what I am talking about.  The hitches and minimal noise in his movements could very well be where his power is generated from.  You could quiet him down to the ideal extent, but you could rob him of some explosiveness, which could create noise in other areas.  Allaire should tread a bit lightly here and experiment with some different advice.  There isn’t nearly enough of an issue here to look for wholesale mechanical changes.

My Projection

I agree with Steve Valiquette in what I saw is an NHL-ready goaltender play last night.  What was most impressive was that many young, athletic goaltenders tend to overextend their movements and rely too much on their athleticism to properly create technical consistency.  Depending on his ability to implement the technical tweaks I outlines above, he could project out anywhere from very useful backup to fully capable NHL starter.  Consistency will be key.

When Benoit Allaire took on his most successful projects in Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta, he saw raw talent and a strong need for re-vamped mechanics.  With Georgiev, the technical foundation is in place already.  This is a big head start, as they can concentrate on preparation, consistency and technical maximization.  Barring a complete erosion of his skills before the end of the season, I would be comfortable with the organization penciling him in as Lundqvist’s backup next season, unless a crazy bargain falls into their lap in free agency.

*All GIF’s from @HayyyShayyy

"First impressions of Alexandar Georgiev", 5 out of 5 based on 20 ratings.
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  1. Technically sound, good reflexes, good size.
    Only one game but he looked poised with a fire drill defense in front of him…….

  2. Doesn’t this make Hank expendable during a rebuild?

    Don’t get me wrong would love to see the king retire in a ranger jersey.

    But that kid looks really good.

    1. Henrik’s not going anywhere. You never get value for goaltenders no matter how good they are or how much we love them. Also hard to make the call after 1 game with Georgiev.

  3. Just one game but he was certainly a bright spot. Especially facing 41 shots. On the 2 goals he was hung out to dry. Then the EN. He’s not the reason we lost, and I think he could be a decent backup for next season if last night is an indication.

  4. and I loved the fact he can handle the puck behind the net , and his passes multiple times were a whole lot better than Hank “s (sorry) ever were.

  5. Guys, guys. I was really impressed with Georgiev last night, but I in no way intended to give anyone the impression that he was ready for full-time duty or that he should be taking meaningful playing time away from Lundqvist. Moving on from Hank is not part of this analysis in any way.

    Georgiev looks like he can be a capable backup and has the physical tools to play in the NHL right now. That’s all I was trying to convey.

  6. “He is compact; he doesn’t have much in the way of excess movement or a tendency to become overly aggressive as the play breaks down.”

    Bingo, that nails it. I saw calm, I saw patience and yes, he looks like an NHL goalie albeit at best a backup right now. I would certainly give him a few more games down the stretch and try to confirm that he could be Hank’s backup next year. If so, he can save us anywhere from 200k-500k on the salary cap which always comes in handy especially if management is looking to tie up a few RFAs to long term deals.

  7. Nice Article.

    It would be funny if we went from the KING to the Emperor (Alexander The Great)

    Time Will Tell for the Young Russian. There’s another Russian in the System, right? Igor?

    1. Wouldn’t he be The Czar? (which is the Russian equivalent of Emperor) … one Russian goalie could be the Czar, the other could be The Commissar. lol

      PS: Alexander The Great was Macedonian/Greek — the Alexander you’re referencing wasn’t all that great. 😉

      1. You can comfortably call him “The Count” or “The Baron”. I prefer the latter….

        The Czar is saved for Igor S…..

    2. It’s going from the King (Hank) to the Tsar (Shestyorkin). Georgiev can be considered to be Alexander Kerensky, the leader of the provisional government, which existed briefly in 1917 between tsarist Russia and CCCP Soviet Union.

      This joke is hilarious if you’re Russian. Probably too obscure if you’re not.

  8. I was impressed with the young man. He made several difficult saves and did not seem to get flustered. It is only one game but, as Justin points out very nicely, his technique looks pretty solid. If he can play like he did last night consistently then he looks to be a very capable backup. With some more experience and Benny treatments he might be someone who could become a starter. Only one game, but it was a good one.

  9. Thumbs up. 30+ SOG for the Habs midway through the 2nd, this kid stood up well. Not intimidated at all.

    1. Hey pal!! Long time lurker here. saw my friend posting and decided to see how he was doing. Where are those trades you guaranteed?

      1. Hey pal, I congratulated you on the Banter (I’m “Long Line Henrik” there now).

        They’re coming., I expect Nash this weekend. McD goes only if the Rangers get what they want. If not now, then the draft.

        AV gone after the season. Rangers accumulating assets for maybe a bigger trade at the draft, OEL or Trouba. Kovy to Rangers is very hot. Zuc, 50/50 to go.

  10. Why, every time someone brings up trading Lundqvist, or moving on from him in some other way, does everyone freak out like it’s completely out of the question, and the person who brought up the subject knows nothing. The Rangers I guess couldn’t use the $8.5 million in a better way. I personally think Henrik is very overrated, and has numerous flaws in his game, and that the franchise would be smart to move on from him.

    1. Why? I don’t know, maybe because it’s true? Goaltenders, in general, don’t bring full value back. So you are not getting something amazing back. And now you traded away the one person that can steal you games and did not get full value back on. And from a marketing standpoint (remember this is a business) the assets you get back for Henrik won’t come close to fill
      the hole left by Henrick. Henrik is probably one of the few that makes them more than they pay him.

      Bottom line, he wins games and fills seats.Much more than any return you will get for him.

    2. He has a complete no trade contract. All the team could do is buy him out, and he sure isn’t that bad yet.

  11. When was the last time the Rangers didn’t fill the seats? That argument is not valid….Rangers have always filled the seats….Trade lundqvist and I assure you the seats would still be filled

    1. This [ Hank is still the greatest goalie ever to walk the earth and no matter how poorly he plays we will never admit it ] group is more brainwashed than hillary supporters………
      Its ok , fandom is a personal thing BUT does get in the way of logic and reason……..
      What did you think of the grabner trade……[I posted plenty yesterday and considered it another ”stupid trade”….very little return for arguably our best, most exciting goal scorer the past two years]…….

      1. Says the guy who thinks Steve Durbano and Ed Hospodar were actual hockey players.

        1. They were both better than desharnais, mcleod, carey, neives, holland, kampher, holden, etc etc
          FYI …durbano was a fairly skilled D man who was a first round draftee who played in a time when fighting was an important part of the game………

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