In a good news/bad news season so far for the Rangers, the first game following the All-Star break was no different. The good news included a big win, Artemi Panarin staying red hot, and Jonathan Quick posting another outstanding start in a season full of them. One could even add Alexis Lafreniere’s game-winning goal in the good news column as he continues to take a big step forward.
But the hand-wringing over the goalie situation began even before the puck dropped. When Jonathan Quick was first off the ice after Monday’s practice, signaling that he was the starting goalie, opinions on the decision began to fly, and speculation about what it meant for Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers came hard on the heels of those opinions. Steve Valliquette, MSG Network commentator, weighed in on X with this. Queue the ensuing firestorm. With Quick the first off the ice at Tuesday’s practice, it appears that the debate will rage for at least another 24 hours.
If Ranger fans are looking for some comfort amid the tumult, they may want to look at last year’s Florida Panthers, who rode not one but two hot backup goalies into the playoffs while their superstar slid into the backup role. In their first-round series against the Boston Bruins, they went with the hot hand of Alex Lyon while Bobrovsky sat, only to turn to “Bob” in game 3, with the series tied at one and the Panthers losing 3-0. They never looked back and rode Bobrovsky all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Alex Lyon discussed how Bobrovsky continued to work hard behind the scenes, telling Kristen Shilton of ESPN during the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, “for me to be able to see him operate on a daily basis, that’s literally like striking gold.” Bobrovsky took his medicine and remained ready for when his team needed him most.
Igor Shesterkin is certainly capable of working through his current struggles. Perhaps giving him the space to do so on the practice rink and in a more sheltered role is exactly what is needed. He and everyone else in the organization can see that he is struggling, and it is in everyone’s best interest that he gets it figured out. But making each game a referendum on whether he is “back” or not seems like a fool’s errand. And if anyone needs evidence that there is another way to manage the situation, they need look no further than Florida.