The 2023 NY Rangers report cards now shift to the goalies, and what an interesting season it was for both Igor Shesterkin and Jaro Halak. On the surface, both Shesterkin and Halak posted above average numbers for their roles, as Shesterkin finished the season with a .916 SV%, 2.48 GAA, and 3 shutouts. Halak finished with a .903 SV%, 2.72 GAA, and 1 shutout.
For both goalies, the season stats were below what many had hoped for. Shesterkin finished in the top-10 in SV% among goalies that played 25+ games. Halak’s .903 SV% put him in the top-30. The league placement is still solid, but there’s nuance to how this duo performed.
Much like with Henrik Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin is usually handcuffed by the Rangers overall quality of play on the ice.
Despite the Rangers allowing just 216 goals against, 4th in the NHL, they were not very good defensively. For those unfamiliar with these charts, that red bar on the left is Shesterkin’s expected SV% based on shot locations allowed by the Rangers. On the left is even strength, and on the right is PK.
Naturally the Rangers surrendered a lot of quantity and quality, something that shouldn’t surprise you. What also shouldn’t surprise you is Shesterkin was the main guy keeping the Rangers in it and bailing out the team regularly. The FSv% is his actual SV% based on shot location, much like how we have GF% and xGF%. Same concept, just for goalies. dFSv% is the difference between his expected SV% based on shot location and his actual SV% based on shot location. The bigger the blue, the better.
Shesterkin wasn’t as crisp shorthanded, but he was one of the best at even strength. So why were his numbers so down? It’s simple: He had a slow start to the season. He had six sub-.900 SV% games in the first two months of the season spanning 17 starts. His first 10 starts after the All Star break resulted in another 8 games under .900. He just had more awful starts this season.
Still, he’s a top goalie in the league and finished with a top-10 SV%. It’s hard to ignore that. Only 5 goalies finished with a SV% over .920, so perhaps this is a sign of a changing game as well.
It wasn’t just Shesterkin who had the slow start. Jaro Halak looked pretty bad to start the season as well. But unlike Shesterkin, he didn’t recover the way many had hoped. When he was on, he was on. When he was off, boy was he off.
To be fair, this is more or less what you expect from a backup goalie. The overall product was slightly above league average, with Halak’s PK performance propping up his unusually poor 5v5 performance. This has been the trend with the Rangers since Lundqvist, as there is a different mindset in the team when there is a backup in net versus an elite, all-world talent.
Halak did the job, and his overall product was fine. He was able to give Shesterkin a break and keep him under 60 games, which is a pretty big team need. He wasn’t spectacular, but that’s not his job. Perhaps we’ve just gotten too spoiled with past backups like Cam Talbot, Alex Georgiev, and Antti Raanta.