You’ve heard the narratives. The Rangers are all Igor Shesterkin. This team wouldn’t be anywhere without their goalie. And you know what, it’s partially true. While lately there have been more contributions from the skaters, the first two months of the season were mostly Shesterkin. It shows in the numbers, as Shesterkin is pacing to have the best single season of a Rangers goalie ever. Yes, that includes the Henrik Lundqvist years.
Using MoneyPuck’s goals saved above expected metric, which goes beyond SV% to measure a goalie’s true worth, Shesterkin has saved 30.9 goals above expected thus far this season. This metric covers quality of shot too, so shot distance and type matters here, instead of SV% in which all shots are created equal.
— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) March 5, 2022
This is through 36 games played for Shesterkin, of a possible 55 games. Remember, Shesterkin was hurt for a part of the season and Alex Georgiev took over. He is currently .14 goals saved above expected per game above the next goalie, which over the course of the season has him 2 full goals above expected.
If we assume Shesterkin plays 19 of the remaining 27 games (70%), that puts him at 55 games with the current .876 goals saved above expected rate. Multiply that out, and it gets him to a whopping 47.2 goals saved above expected. As stated by MoneyPuck, the record is under 40, so this clears Tim Thomas’ record by a wide margin.
Henrik Lundqvist’s best season was 31.6 goals saved above expected in 2009-2010. To put Shesterkin’s season in perspective, this is a 50% increase on Lundqvist’s best GSAx season. That’s absolutely absurd.
Shesterkin should win the Hart
If we use the old adage that six goals saved is a win in the standings , and three goals is a point in the standings, then Shesterkin is by far the obvious choice for the Hart Trophy as well. Through his 36 games, his 30.9 (rounding down to 30 for math) GSAx is five wins and 10 points in the standings. Still in the playoffs with 65 points and a 7 point lead on Columbus, but not competing for a Metro Division crown.
Using the projected numbers above, 47.2 GSAx is 8 wins and 16 points in the standings, give or take. When has one player accounted for that number of points in the standings? The Rangers might still have made the playoffs, but it would have been a lot closer than we would’ve wanted.
This is by far the best statistical season on record for the Rangers, at least as far back as we can track with some of these more advanced metrics. I’m sure there are some era-driven goaltender seasons from the 20’s and 30’s that will compete, when hockey was more like soccer. But it is difficult to find a more important person to their team than Igor Shesterkin. This season, he has eclipsed Henrik Lundqvist as the best statistical season on record. Give him some time and some injury luck, and we might be looking at the shortest lived “Best goalie in Rangers history” crown ever.