Is this actually a changing of the guard in net?

Alex Georgiev is set to start in his 6th in the last 8 games

Alex Georgiev will start in net for the Rangers tonight, which will be his sixth start in the last eight games*. Larry Brooks mentioned in his column yesterday that this is an organic changing of the guard, as the Rangers have fared better with Georgiev in net, and Georgiev himself is coming off a recent stellar run, where he went 3-1-0 with two shutouts and a .974 SV%. That run was spectacular.

*It is worth noting that the Rangers themselves said Hank was sick last week, so Georgiev made extra starts. Just food for thought.

However Georgiev hasn’t been stellar in his last two starts, stopping 34 of 40 (.850 SV%) in a 1-1-0 run. His two starts prior to his run were equally average, stopping 59 of 69 for a .855 SV%. This isn’t necessarily running the hot hand, it’s something else.

On the flip side of things, Lundqvist doesn’t have those stellar games that Georgiev had. No shutouts since forever, more losses, and a .912 SV% for the season compared to Georgiev’s .920 SV%. The traditional numbers favor Georgiev, so he gets the starts.

When looking at Georgiev’s numbers, his expected goals faced per game is a shade over 3.0, and he’s allowed just 2.3. This is very good, especially with the average shot distance of 36.21 feet. That’s pretty in close, and we know how the Rangers like to give up both quality and quantity against.

We now flip to Lundqvist, who faces an xG/game of 2.889, less than Georgiev, and allows 3.0 per game, more than Georgiev. The shot distance difference is negligible. Lundqvist hasn’t been bad, per se, but Georgiev has simply been better by both traditional and more nuanced stats.

There is some noise in some of these stats, since both are still under 20 games played (Georgiev 19, Hank 16), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Georgiev has simply been better. It also doesn’t take away from the fact that despite the lesser numbers, Lundqvist hasn’t exactly been bad either. He’s just been average while Georgiev has been great. That’s key here. At least according to what was presented above. But here’s a counterpoint:

The counterpoint, goals saved above expectations, takes the full quality and quantity of workload a goalie takes, compares to the results, and shows who is  Sean Tierney here lists tandems, in which the Rangers rank fourth in the league in goaltending. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. What should surprise people is that Lundqvist is making more difficult saves. We see this in the comparison in the full thread from Sean.

So what does all this mean?

It’s not a simple answer of “Georgiev has been better.” This is a grey area for the Rangers at a position they haven’t needed to look in 14 years. Here’s what we know:

  • Alex Georgiev has had higher highs than Henrik Lundqvist, but the lows are the same. Both have allowed some weak goals while also making saves they have no business making.
  • Lundqvist is 37 years old and is not the generational goalie from as little as three years ago. Georgiev is 23 years old, but he’s nowhere near what Lundqvist was. That’s not a slight, very few can do what Lundqvist did for all those years.
  • The Rangers are awful defensively. Yes this plays a role.
  • Georgiev has the better overall and nuanced stats, but Lundqvist does have the better GSAA stats. In the stat category, it’s 2-1. Not a blowout.
  • Lundqvist doesn’t look washed up. The question whether Georgiev can take the mantle is still being decided.

There was never going to be a proverbial ripping of the band-aid for the goaltending change. As long as Lundqvist is average or better, he will continue to get starts. It was always going to be a slower transition.

A changing of the guard is coming, but whether this is the actual changing of the guard is still to be seen. Igor Shesterkin has been pegged as the heir, but Georgiev is very quickly changing minds. Lundqvist only has one year left on his current deal, and it is more likely than not he becomes the full time backup before the contract is up. That may be before this season ends as well. He’s already at a 50/50 split, with each passing day leading to fewer starts.

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  • Of course the other possibility is that Georgiev is merely being showcased for a trade with the increased workload being a small measure of proof that he can be a #1 goalie — personally I hope that isn’t the case. I prefer to believe he’s being given this opportunity to prove to the Rangers that he can be a #1.

    • I think its both: deserving (change over) and being showcased. I still prefer Shesty over Gorg as we are still 3-4 years away from legitimacy and the former’s eventual contract then will be a lot easier on our whole roster. Appreciate 2nd goalies play a lot more these days but I don’t believe in the idea of holding on to two #1s. Find me a great center prospect JD!

      • It’s all conjecture though until someone proves they’re a #1 … so maybe Shesty and Georgiev are both #1’s, maybe not. I say keep both until we know for sure. There are a lot of good goalies that just can’t make the transition from good or great backup to good or great #1.

        • Without Lundqvist off the books next year I can’t see that happening. Shesty camp will not allow him play a 2nd year in AHL. He has nothing left to prove there.

          • We’ll have the cap space to add Shesty, he’s on an ELC … that shouldn’t be an issue.

      • I have to laugh at your 3 to 4 year outlook? No one is a lock to even be on this team in 4 years, no one. They could suck so much that the might trade Panarin by then.

        My point? There is no future, always play to win, except near the end of the year when a team has no choice.
        Because building by the draft is overrated. Just look at our picks, they all suck, and look at the devils and Edmonton

        • I have to laugh at your 3 to 4 year outlook? No one is a lock to even be on this team in 4 years, no one. They could suck so much that the might trade Panarin by then.

          My point? There is no future, always play to win, except near the end of the year when a team has no choice.
          Because building by the draft is overrated. Just look at our picks, they all suck, and look at the devils and Edmonton

        • Kenneth—you’re dead wrong. All 3 of the multiple Cup winning teams of the past 10 years have acquired their major stars thru the draft. Pitt has had Malkin/Crosby/Fleury/Letang, Chicago has Kane/Keith/Toews/Crawford, LA has Kopitar, Quick, Doughty. All of these difference-making elite players were drafted by the teams that won with them. The draft is the only legit way to acquire superstar talent without destroying salary structure. Even a guy like Panarin—currently justifying his massive contract—will be considered a cap-destroying player halfway thru his deal.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Maybe NYR management is giving him more starts as a way to determine whether he can handle being a #1.

    • Deciding who will be Hank’s heir is an important decision and we need to know how good Georgiev (and for that matter Shesty) is. Of course, playing Georgi has the additional upside of showcasing him.

      I really hope Hank retires this year though. It has a three fold benefit. The Rangers can keep both goalies next year. The Rangers save $5.5M in cap space I believe. AND, the Rangers can reconfigure their defense to be more traditional and less Hank-friendly.

  • I dont think georgiev is a #1 atm . The game vs Nashville just shows what I’ve said before … he is 2-3 good one bad etc. If you play him many games in a row.

    Make no mistake … its igors team soon

    • Maybe, but Shesty got shelled in his last game in Hartford. No one is perfect and you can’t judge a goalie by a few bad games. Don’t get me wrong. I would bet Shestyerkin is the right choice today, but I’d like more information.

  • On a related note, if the Rangers determine that Georgiev has earned a real shot (i.e. given a legit chance to beat out Shesty) to become the Rangers #1 of the future, they face a real decision on what to do with Lundqvist next year. They cannot keep Shesty in the AHL for another year (they would be pushing it keeping him down for the full season this year), and they can’t keep 3 goalies on the roster. They would essentially be forced to consider a buyout (or trade if he waives his NTC and the Rangers retain salary).

    Some tough calls are coming and real soon.

    • They can actually carry three goalies this year if they so choose. They have the cap space and a roster spot. Of course, the cap crunch for next year looks serious at present but even then, they might shuttle Shesty up and down and minimize the cap hit there.

    • Who says they can’t keep 3 goalies? Shesty’s cap hit would be a minimal hit … and between the cap savings of having moved Namestnikov and possibly moving Kreider plus the annual increase in the salary cap it’s quite doable. The only goalie who would probably really object to this would be Hank … and what can he do about it? Nothing.

      It might not be a great solution to the issue, but it might very well be the best solution for the future of the team (i.e. 2+ years from now).

      • Because there aren’t enough minutes to go around. Rotating 3 goalies deprives each of them of the adequate playing time needed for growth. I’m nervous about Georgiev and Shesty getting enough time in a 2 goalie rotation. 3 is just negligent.

  • I think it’s all showcasing Georgiev.

    Never underestimate the media power here too. All this talk in the Post, the press, and the blogs all feeds into it. Georgiev is good, no doubt. But I believe they are creating buzz for him to raise his value. Drop a few articles like Brooks’ and in a few other places. Keep playing him. Question if he’s taking Hank’s role. Etc, etc. The buzz is getting out there. Now let it stew… and Gorton can demand a higher return.

    They did the same thing with Cam Talbot and Raanta. It’s just much more believable now that Lundqvist is older. Hank is now well rested. They move Georgiev, Hank gets more starts, and they ease in Igor. But next season will then be the true turnover.

  • Last week, someone mentioned on a radio or tv broadcast Lundqvist had a lingering back ailment. So that and the fact that Gorgy has played well explains everything.

    • If that were TRUE, then why not put him on IR for 10+ games and call up Shesty? Back issues are always “tricky”. I’m not saying it isn’t true, but if it is then that would have been a great excuse to keep Shesty happy and give him a couple of games — allowing us to further evaluate what we have.

  • Time has come to move the King. With all respect. It’s just business. He knows that better than we do. I mean, Brian Leetch got traded.

  • The New York Rangers are not looking to win in four years. They are looking to win now and for every year coming. They are looking to win now by developing a young squad while rebuilding their pipeline.

    Everyone of the goalies we are discussing wants to be a #1. G or I must be traded or made into the NY Rangers #1.
    Because Igor is doing as well as he is in the AHL, G must go.

    Henrik is a casualty of time at this point. If he wants to be a backup in NY after his contract is up to him. But he will not be our #1 after next year, possible sooner.

    The change has to begin, and Igor is the clock that has it ticking faster for both G and Henrik too.


    Great problem to have.

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