The Wraparound: Shesterkin vs. Vasilevskiy hype is justified

The Wraparound: Shesterkin vs. Vasilevskiy hype is justified
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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• The wait is over for the Lightning to get their 2022 Eastern Conference Final opponent: they’ll face the Rangers. Game 1 takes place at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

• Sometimes, playoff hockey can’t deliver on our daydreams. Game 1 of Avalanche – Oilers was as fast, thrilling, and skillful as expected. The Avalanche won, but not before the Oilers made a rally.

• Check out PHT’s predictions for Avalanche – Oilers and Rangers – Lightning. Want more preview fun? Read up on this Roundtable, which covers surprises so far, and us anticipating other surprises.

While other leagues see the absolute best face off each other in the playoffs (often during championship rounds) NHL fans don’t get to see best-on-best as often on the biggest stage. It’s telling, really, that people first think of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby‘s duelling hat tricks from 2009 while hyping up Connor McDavid vs. Nathan MacKinnon.

Stunningly, we’re not just treated to two of the world’s greatest forwards (and some comparable friends) during these conference finals. In the Rangers – Lightning series, fans are also treated to a battle of the best goalies in the sport with Igor Shesterkin facing off against Andrei Vasilevskiy.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

You can imagine the barroom debates and playground shouting matches.

Some might view it as best goalie of this time (Andrei Vasilevskiy) versus the best of the moment (Igor Shesterkin). Others may insist that Vasilevskiy hasn’t ever handed away the torch, even temporarily.

Being that it’s hockey, you won’t find much (public) trash-talking between Shesterkin and Vasilevskiy. Instead, Shesterkin deferred to Vasilevskiy, the goalie he’s watched from the bench before.

“He’s the best goalie in the world right now,” Shesterkin said about Vasilevskiy, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.

About the closest you’ll get to bulletin board material would be players picking their guy. Really, should Barclay Goodrow not pick his own goalie?

[NHL Power Rankings: 2021-22 surprises]

In the grand scheme of things, you really can’t go wrong.

Truly, Shesterkin generated Hasek-type numbers this season. While Igor Shesterkin finished the 2021-22 season with a gargantuan 44.85 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), no other goalie reached 30 (Ilya Sorokin finished with 29.8, no one else reached 27). Incredibly, Shesterkin’s 44.85 slightly exceeded the total if you combined the GSAA leaders from the previous two seasons. His impact was enormous.

And, as much attention as the high-scoring start to the Penguins – Rangers series received, Shesterkin has been a big playoff difference-maker, too.

Critique the Hurricanes all you want, but there were frequent moments where Shesterkin snuffed out any hint of a comeback with a brilliant save.

Vasilevskiy: not just consistent, but also consistently great

What else can one say about Andrei Vasilevskiy, an absolute pillar of the Lightning’s repeat Stanley Cup wins, and this three-peat push?

Since 2017-18, Vasilevskiy’s 188 wins easily leads all goalies in the regular season, with Connor Hellebuyck second at 162 wins. Only four goalies had at least 150 wins during that span. It’s not quantity over quality, either, as Vasilevskiy averaged a .920 save percentage.

Maintaining such elite play while carrying one of the heaviest burdens in the league is truly rare and impressive.

Of course, part of that workhorse run carries into sparkling play in the playoffs.

Through this three-peat push, Vasilevskiy’s save percentage average has ranged from .927 to .937 (he’s currently at .932 through 11 games this playoff stretch). At times, the Lightning have been winning in ways that would make Cale Makar think of playoff hockey: low-scoring, tiny margins for error.

Both Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin make the sort of saves that must have opponents feeling like only a perfect shot will beat them.

No doubt, fans should cherish this Shesterkin – Vasilevskiy showdown.

Greedily, can we also hope this is merely Part 1? Shesterkin is only 26, and, for all his accomplishments, Vasilevskiy is merely 27. Maybe they’ll meet again. And perhaps we’ll be having this debate for, oh, another decade?

(The Lightning and Rangers wouldn’t mind getting even more of the goaltending other teams only dream about.)

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Eastern Conference Final

NEW YORK RANGERS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Game 1 – June 1: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 2 – June 3: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 3 – June 5: Rangers at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 7: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 9: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)
*Game 6 – June 11: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)
*Game 7 -June 14: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)

* If necessary

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Western Conference Final

EDMONTON OILERS v. COLORADO AVALANCHE (COL leads 1-0)
Game 1 : Avalanche 8, Oilers 6
Game 2 – June 2: Oilers at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 3 – June 4: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 6: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 8: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – June 10: Avalanche at Oilers, TBD
*Game 7 – June 12: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD

* If necessary