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Rangers' Shesterkin says he can be even better after first-round sweep


Igor Shesterkin has stopped 94 of the 101 shots he has faced so far this postseason and his play in net is a big reason the New York Rangers rolled through the first round and look like a Stanley Cup contender.

Says Shesterkin: “I could play better.”

“I can do less rebounds, play more confident with the puck and in the net, too,” Shesterkin added.

Up next for the Rangers are the Carolina Hurricanes in the secound round.

The humbling assessment from the 2022 Vezina Trophy winner as the league's top goaltender was no surprise to teammates who have seen him make one improbable save after another. Just from the opening series against Washington there was a post-to-post robbery of Max Pacioretty, a lunging stop to prevent Alex Ovechkin from scoring and countless others that allowed the Rangers to sweep.

“He can steal any game, really, (that) he wants to,” captain Jacob Trouba said. "We know what we have back there. We don’t want to rely on him. But when we do have breakdowns and mistakes, I think we have complete trust that he’s there to have our backs.”

Minutes later, forward Vincent Trocheck, who was the best skater on the ice in the series, echoed a similar sentiment: "Whenever we do have a little bit of a letdown, he’s back there to save our butts.”

Even when Shesterkin himself had a letdown, giving up a weird goal in Game 3 on hockey's equivalent of a diving curve ball, he was perfect the rest of the way.

“Not surprised,” Trocheck said. “We need him to be the backbone of this team. He’s been doing it for years now.”

Coach Peter Laviolette sees a goalie who “seems to be tracking everything really well,” seeing the whole rink from side to side and having good awareness of what's going on around him beyond the puck. Backup Jonathan Quick, the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP in his first of two Cup runs with Los Angeles, appreciates the work Shesterkin has put in to be in the right position so frequently.

“Everyone sees the saves and how great he is athletically and stuff like that,” Quick said. “But I think the part that stands out to me always is his ability to read plays, read what’s going to happen.”

Trouba often finds himself looking up at arena video screens to watch replays of saves by Shesterkin that make him go, “Wow, he got over there.”

Fellow defenseman K'Andre Miller is still surprised by the 28-year-old Russian's spectacular stops and consistent play.

“He’s done a great job of just proving why he’s been the best at what he does,” Miller said. “He makes himself better every day, but he also pushes us to be the best we can.”

Asked how good the Rangers can be and how deep they could go, Shesterkin said only, “We will see.” The real answer is almost certainly how far he can carry them.


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