David Quinn said he won’t decide which goalie will start for the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers until after the coach sees all three on the ice for several practices and scrimmages during Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan.
Henrik Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev are the options Quinn has to start Game 1 of the best-of-5 series against the Carolina Hurricanes at a hub city and date that is to be determined.
“You can make a case for all three guys,” Quinn said. “There’s a lot of reasons to take ‘Shesty,’ there’s a lot of reasons to start Hank (Lundqvist), and there’s reasons to start ‘Georgie.’ This is such an uncertain time that that will play out over the course of the two and a half weeks that we’re going to have before we drop the puck.”
Training camp, which is part of Phase 3, is expected to open July 10.
When Phase 4 begins, the Rangers, who were 37-28-5 (.564 points percentage) before the NHL paused its season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, will be the No. 11 seed in the Eastern Conference. Carolina (38-25-5, .596) will be the No. 6 seed.
During the pause, Lundqvist has been working out in Sweden and Georgiev has been doing so in Finland. Shesterkin was in Florida before returning to New York last week.
“I’ve talked to all these guys and they’ve been on the ice, especially Georgie and Hank due to the fact that they’ve been over in Europe,” Quinn said. “Shesty has been [in New York] skating for the last week. We’re in a good spot.”
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There is a lot for Quinn to consider before making the final decision, including Lundqvist’s success against Carolina. He was 3-0-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .947 save percentage against the Hurricanes this season, including 45 saves in a 4-2 win at Carolina on Nov. 7. In his NHL career, he is 33-12-1 with a 2.00 GAA,.934 save percentage and two shutouts in 46 games against Carolina.
However, Lundqvist started four of the Rangers’ final 30 games from Jan. 4-March 11. During that stretch, Shesterkin was solidifying himself as the Rangers’ new No. 1. The 24-year-old rookie, who made his NHL debut Jan. 7, was 10-2-0 with a 2.52 GAA and .932 save percentage in 12 starts, including 27 saves in a 5-2 win against the Hurricanes at Carolina on Feb. 21.
Georgiev was 17-14-2 with a 3.04 GAA and .910 save percentage this season but didn’t start against Carolina.
“Hank’s history factors in, Shesty’s season factors in,” Quinn said. “Everything factors in. We’re going to consider everything when we make that decision. For every player, the time that we have between when we start practicing and the start of the games is going to be pivotal, but none more so than our goalies.”