On Saturday night, the Rangers failed to take advantage of a lowly Devils squad playing on the second night of back to backs. These were two points the Blueshirts definitely needed, as they still have 3 points and 3 teams to overcome if their late-season playoff push is going to bear fruit. Worth noting was that Igor Shesterkin was back in net after missing two weeks with a broken rib. Predictably, he looked tentative and shaky.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any first-hand knowledge of Shesterkin’s physical condition. However, from a purely optical perspective, it does seem to have the unfortunate appearance of an organization rushing back a star player before they were truly physically ready for game action. I would implore the Rangers organization not to make this mistake.
In Shesterkin’s absence, both Alexandar Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist struggled. Lundqvist makes sense, since David Quinn has stapled him to the bench for weeks on end. With the recent hot streak and renewed fan enthusiasm about a possible playoff push this season, trying to get Shesterkin back as soon as possible would make perfect sense. The issue is bigger than that, though.
Shesterkin is one of the top 5 young goaltenders on the planet. It is very possible he could be the proper heir to Lundqvist and man the Garden crease for the next decade. You don’t jeopardize that for a long shot run at a Wild Card spot. If the kid is still hurt, let him heal. You have two other talented goaltenders on the roster, see if they can carry you. If so, you would have Shesterkin back for the playoff run. If not, who cares? This was a lost season anyway.
It’s not like this was the first year of proper contention that took a while to come together. We are at least a year early. Kreider is hurt, the left side of the defense is a bare cupboard and Kaapo Kakko is still acclimating the North American game. There is no shame in missing out this season. Obviously, you try to win and instill that winning culture, but in the same context as the trade deadline, you don’t jeopardize your future for a mediocre present.
Maybe I’m way off base here and Shesterkin was fully healthy, albeit a little bit rusty. I hope that is the case, but this certainly wouldn’t be the first-time a pro sports team rushed a guy back to gain a little extra ground. It’s been about the long-term process all along through this rebuild, with emphasis on making sure the pieces were in place. I just hope the Rangers don’t get too cavalier with one of their biggest pieces for an extra few points in a long shot season.