Goaltending has always been a strength for the New York Rangers, but how did they do during the 2017-18 season?
For the New York Rangers, there has been one position that has never been a problem for them, goaltending.
Led by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers have never had much to worry about from the man in the cage. Not only was Lundqvist someone they could trust, but their backups in Martin Biron, Cam Talbot, and Antti Raanta were all trustworthy in goal.
However, in 2017-18, there might have been more questions when it came who will be the man backing up Lundqvist. The team had just traded Raanta in the offseason leaving the Rangers without many options. Ondrej Pavelec would sign as an unrestricted free agent and win the backup job out of training camp, but that wouldn’t stick all year long.
Unexpectedly, the Rangers would end up going with four goaltenders during the 2017-18 season. Only Lundqvist, Pavelec, and Alexandar Georgiev would see significant playing time, so we will just focus on their performance.
Grades are determined based on impact to the team, performance, and consistency. Some players might have an incomplete due to the fact that they left us wanting more or had their opportunities taken away from them.
Coming into the season, Ondrej Pavelec had to prove to himself and the league that he’s an NHL caliber player. He was coming off a year where he had a 3.55 goals against average and a .888 save percentage in only eight games.
The thought behind bringing Pavelec in was: one, he was a veteran player, and two, the work with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire would do wonders for his game. But, out of the gate, Pavelec found it hard to get playing time. His first start of the season came in the teams sixth game, making it difficult for him to get into a rhythm.
One thing that was evident from Pavelec’s games was his movement in the crease. He looked slow moving from post to post which hurt his game. In his first four starts, Pavelec allowed 13 goals and faced an average of 24 shots against that span. After the slow start, he made it work though and salvaged the rest of his season.
An injury would force the Rangers to turn to Brandon Halverson and Alexandar Georgiev taking the job away from Pavelec. He would find some playing time down the stretch, but it was made quite obvious that he would not be apart of the Rangers future.
Overall, Pavelec did what he could but it wasn’t enough.
This season there were more questions surrounding Henrik Lundqvist than usual. He was coming off a season where he saw some of the worst numbers of his career. But he came into the 2017-18 season motivated, and would eventually return to form.
Lundqvist was once again the Rangers team M.V.P. in 2017-18 as he carried the team throughout the year. With the Rangers struggling out of the gate, there was talk about the team letting head coach Alain Vigneault go. But Lundqvist would go on a 25 game run starting in November where he was unbeatable preventing Vigneault’s eventual firing.
With a 16-6-2 record during that 25 game span, not only did Lundqvist save the Vigneault’s job, he re-established himself as one of the best in the league. He would be selected to his fourth career all-star game, first since 2012.
But as the Rangers season started to go downhill, so did Lundqvist’s game. Despite the hot three months in November, December, and January, he would end the year with a 2.98 goals-against-average. Those numbers were blown up though, thanks to numerous games where he faced 40 or more shots on goals. He did that on 13 different occasions last year. But what was a summary of Lundqvist and the Rangers’ season was the two-game stretch where Lundqvist faced 106 shots. The Rangers won both of those games, thanks to the heroics of the man they call “the King.”
Lundqvist showed that he can still play at a high level, but he cannot do it alone. The more help he gets, the better off he and the Rangers will be.
Alexandar Georgiev was an unknown player entering this season. The Rangers had never planned for him to have an impact at the NHL level, but injuries would force them to turn him.
The 22-year-old rookie goaltender made 10 appearances during the 2017-18 season and all he did was impress. The save made in the video above was in just his first NHL game. His composure was what was so impressive from Georgiev, and he would keep making saves like the one above look easy on a game by game basis.
In seven of his 10 games, Georgiev was tasked with the impossible facing 35 or more shots on goal. He had four games where he faced 40 or more shots. But what was more impressive, was that Georgiev won three of the games where he saw 40 or more shots. In that small sample size, along with Georgiev being a rookie goaltender, the odds were against him and the Rangers. But that didn’t matter, as Georgiev proved to be up to the challenge.
As Pavelec and Lundqvist got healthier towards the end of the season, general manager Jeff Gorton decided it was best for Georgiev to see consistent playing time in Hartford. Regardless of where he finished the season last year, Georgiev showed that he belongs in the NHL. He created a nice little problem for the Rangers to have last year and looks to be apart of the Rangers future.
Overall, Georgiev did so much more than the Rangers could have asked from him.
The Rangers have plenty of questions surrounding them entering the offseason. But there are absolutely no major question marks surrounding the goaltending position.
Lundqvist will play a major role in that once again, and the only question surrounding the position is who will back him up. Pavelec will become an unrestricted free agent and it’s unlikely that he will be back. That is where Georgiev will come in and try to turn into the next Cam Talbot or Antti Raanta. If they get the production he gave them last year, that question mark will quickly disappear.
Should the Rangers get the production from their goaltenders that they received this year on top of a more structured in front of them, the Rangers will be in good shape in 2018-19. Depending on who is coaching the team, will play a factor in that, but you have to like the shape that they are in.