The pros and cons of Alex Georgiev as a backup in the playoffs

Alex Georgiev's struggles were clear this season

The story from last night’s win over Detroit should have been the beatdown the Rangers laid on the Red Wings. They dominated every aspect of the game from start to finish. But it was the three weak goals let in by Alex Georgiev that dominate the conversation. The goalie had another rough outing in what was a light workload, and the questions came abound. Is Alex Georgiev as a backup going to hurt the Rangers?

Pro – More work means better play

One of the perks with having Georgiev as a backup in the playoffs is that he generally gets better with more playing time. We’ve covered many times that Georgiev simply plays better when he is getting games regularly. The stats back it up, as Georgiev’s only run as a consistent starter was in December, and that’s when he posted his highest SV%.

The above is Georgiev’s run from December through early January, and it’s a heck of a run. Two clunkers, for sure, but the rest is borderline domination from him. This is what his best case scenario would be in the playoffs.

The concerns over Georgiev’s play has certainly been warranted. Inconsistent play has led to inconsistent results. Should the Rangers need Georgiev in the playoffs, it means something dire has happened. His starter mentality should be a pro, should this come to pass.

Con – Inconsistency and unreliability

If there is one thing last night’s game showed us, it’s that Georgiev cannot be relied upon to make the simple save in a spot start/backup role. The two five-hole softies in the first period were enough evidence of that, and they really stand out. But it’s not just those goals, he’s let in a lot of questionable goals over the last two months.

In fairness to Georgiev, there is a certain sect of the fanbase that blames him for every goal. The critique on Georgiev should be limited to goals he needs to stop, not goals Shesterkin would have stopped, because that’s not a fair comparison. League average should be the bar, and last night was not league average. The last 2 months haven’t been league average.

Goaltending is a funny thing. Just look at the league leaders in SV%. The #15 goalie in the league has a .915 SV%. The “worst” regular starter is John Gibson with a .904 SV%. SV% is littered with issues of its own, as quality of shot is not taken into account, this is just a reference point.

The bottom line is that Georgiev needs to stop the ones he should stop, and then make a save or two as needed. That’s the expectation of a backup in the playoffs. Right now, he’s not doing it.

Pro – he can be a starter if needed

The backup mindset is a difficult one. You need to be game ready all the time, but also turn it off for 65% of the season. It isn’t an easy thing to do. Georgiev has shown that when he plays, he’s at least an NHL average starter.

In the event that Igor Shesterkin goes down with an injury, Georgiev is likely the best option of all the playoff backups. He’s not Shesterkin, again that’s an unfair comparison, but he’s certainly one of the only backup goalies headed to the playoffs that can put up a .930 SV% in a stretch of starts. When Georgiev is a starter, those softies become fewer and further between.

Con (Pro?) – He knows he’s on his way out

Unsure if this is a pro or a con, but Georgiev knows he’s not going to be a Ranger next year. Georgiev could have put up monster numbers and had a top-five SV% in the league, and he still wouldn’t be with the Rangers next year. He’s a cap casualty at best, and a needed trade at worst.

As a pending RFA with a QO of over $2 million, the Rangers were never going to be able to re-sign him. The problem now is that with his recent play, not many teams will be willing to part with assets and re-sign him to that kind of a deal. He’s playing for a trade and a contract, which is good. But if he knows he’s not going to play in New York, it could be back.

Con – Keith Kinkaid is not the answer

For some unknown reason, Keith Kinkaid’s name has come up an awful lot. He’s had a good game or two for the Rangers, but he’s not the answer. If Kinkaid were an NHLer, he’d be in the NHL. Period. He’s 32 years old and hasn’t had a consistent NHL job since the 2018-2019 season.

To quote Moneyball: If he’s a good hitter, why doesn’t he hit good?

Georgiev is the backup for the playoffs, barring injury. And let’s be real, if the Rangers are relying on Georgiev in the playoffs, then something else has gone horribly wrong.