Goaltending wins in the playoffs. A hot goalie can steal a series, steal a conference, or even steal a Stanley Cup. Goaltending is the ultimate wild card, and the Rangers have arguably the best goaltending trio in the playoffs this season. Igor Shesterkin will be the Rangers playoff goalie, which is already an advantage, but the depth goes far beyond him.
One interesting aspect of this year’s playoffs is how quickly a series can change. Shesterkin is clearly the best goalie on the roster right now, but all three are capable of stealing a series. When it comes to the starters, he’s miles ahead of whatever the Hurricanes trot out there. Their options are either James Reimer or Petr Mrazek. Decent options, one can get hot and complement this skilled team, but it is definitely their Achilles heel.
Funny enough, goalie is the one place that the Rangers have great depth. Yet it’s also the one place where if you’re forced to use it, you’re in a bad spot. The only way Henrik Lundqvist, capable of being lights out, plays is if Shesterkin doesn’t look good in Game 1. At that point, the Rangers are probably losing the game and putting themselves in a hole for the five game series.
The Rangers have a major goalie edge in the playoffs, something they’ve had since 2005. This year, it’s Igor Shesterkin that will need to cover for his team. If Shesterkin steals games, the Rangers can make noise. Like top line scoring, goaltending is a critical success factor for the Rangers. If the Rangers need to go to their goaltending depth, then it may already be too late.