Given the New York Rangers current state, it was odd that Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t getting the starting nod against the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, Alexandar Georgiev answered the call in spades. Celebrating his 23rd birthday, the young netminder stopped a whopping 55 shots in the Rangers 4-1 victory over the Leafs. With an ageing Lundqvist and tough trading block conversations, here’s what Georgiev’s best night yet means for the Rangers future.
Alexandar Georgiev Changes Rangers Conversation
Bulgarian-born Georgiev likely had his best birthday ever, making 55 saves in the Rangers weekend win over the Leafs. Showing his chops with one acrobatic save after another, Georgiev left the team from Toronto quivering. Georgiev even set a franchise record for saves made in regulation. His performance flipped the script of rebuilding and disappointment in the Rangers locker room.
In fact, this positive shift in the conversation needs to carry over into the tumultuous weeks before the trade deadline. The Rangers desperately need something else to talk about. Endless reporters asking about what team can do better or what players will be gone at the trade deadline can wear on a team’s morale. Positive games against a tough team like the Leafs do more than putting points on the board, they shift the momentum.
Changing the Conversation
Topics of conversation surrounding the Blueshirts as of late have been an expiring Lundqvist and the trade potential stars like Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello. What hasn’t been discussed is the shining future that could be a few years ahead of the Rangers.
With Igor Shestyorkin and Georgiev putting up solid numbers in their youth, goaltending is one of those bright spots. Despite almost doubling his games played in 2018-19 with 19, Georgiev still remains inconsistent. With a save percentage of .905, his stats are decidedly average. However, what his game against Toronto showed us that his work with goalie coach Benoit Allaire is working.
Think about Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta. Both previously served as backup Rangers goaltenders. Allaire shaped those netminders so well, they left a wasted in a backup position to Lundqvist. Now, due to Allaire’s guidance of Georgiev, Lundqvist’s workload can begin to shift. Unfortunately for the Swedish king, he currently holds a .907 save percentage, the worst of his regular season career. With Georgiev playing in net more often, the pressure will be alleviated from Lundqvist at least slightly. Not to mention, the Rangers defence will need to play their best game.
It’s no secret the Rangers defence is comfortable to a fault with Lundqvist in net. Slacking on coverage and throwing out errant slides, sure that Lundqvist will stop it. Unfortunately for Lundqvist, no matter how loyal to the Rangers he is, he remains a step behind where he once was. He has shining streaks but his consistent performance night-after-night is faltering. With a newfound ability to trust a new netminder, the Rangers can truly begin to rebuild their team.
Whether the Rangers new goaltender is Georgiev or Shestyorkin, faith in the changing structure of the Rangers will only do the team good. Lundqvist has been the core of the Rangers for over a decade and it’s time the momentum shifts. There’s a new era that will be led by a collective team of players, it’s on the horizon. For now, however, Georgiev’s stellar birthday will help set the tone for the younger generation of Rangers. With the Rangers management’s open letter coming just a tick more than a year ago, Georgiev is a piece of that promise to the fans. A promise to deliver a team that New Yorkers, and fans everywhere, can be proud of.
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