He is also one of the N.H.L.’s best players at any position. He was named as one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy for most valuable player during the regular season and is almost guaranteed to be awarded the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie. All the evidence voters needed was his .935 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average, both tops in the league.
Shesterkin, 26, was drafted out of Russia by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and has fit seamlessly into a line of Rangers goalies stretching back to the early 1990s with Mike Richter, who was followed, two years after his own retirement, by Henrik Lundqvist in 2005.
“What a run of goaltenders we have seen here with the Rangers,” said Eddie Olczyk, a TNT analyst and teammate of Richter’s on the last Rangers’ team to win a Stanley Cup, in 1994. “Goaltending has not been a problem for the Rangers, and when you have it, you have a chance to win every night.”
Olczyk said he spoke to Gallant months ago about Shesterkin, and the coach raved to him about the goalie’s uncanny ability to read, react and be in the right position ahead of the shot or the pass.
“I don’t think you hear that very often,” Olczyk said. “He seems to know what’s going to happen before it does. When that happens, you’re playing five-card stud with six cards. It’s a pretty good hand to be playing with.”
Lundqvist was like that, too. He was still a Ranger when Shesterkin made his debut on Jan. 7, 2020. Shesterkin spoke very little English then, and it was difficult for Lundqvist to communicate with him in a casual, in-depth manner to get a sense of who Shesterkin was. But he noticed that his new teammate was quite relaxed and chatty with the other Russian-speaking players on the Rangers, such as Pavel Buchnevich and Vladislav Namestnikov, both of whom are no longer on the team.
Now a Rangers analyst on the MSG Network, Lundqvist said Shesterkin’s easygoing demeanor was critical to the Russian goalie’s ability to withstand pressure and failure — what little of it he has had.