David Quinn

Shesterkin ‘unfit to play,’ Lundqvist gets Game 1 start for Rangers

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Henrik Lundqvist will get the start for the Rangers against the Hurricanes in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Qualifier series.

Goaltender Igor Shestkin has been deemed “unfit to play,” making head coach David Quinn’s decision a little easier. Alexander Georgiev will serve as the backup Saturday afternoon.

New York was one of a handful of teams facing a goalie decision ahead of the Qualifying Round (Carolina was one of those teams and will start Petr Mrazek). Quinn said before Phase 3 that he would use training camp as a way to decide his starter.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Shesterkin started the Rangers’ lone exhibition game on Wednesday, with Lundqvist coming in for the final 28 minutes. For his case, Hank has enjoyed success against the Hurricanes. He won all three starts against Carolina during the regular season, stopping at least 39 shots in each game and recording a .947 save percentage.

This could be the final run for Lundqvist with the Rangers. His contract doesn’t expire until after the 2020-21 NHL season, but Shesterkin emerged as the No. 1 before the March pause. He’s now appeared in the franchise’s last 128 playoff games, dating back to the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals. The streak is the third-longest in NHL history behind Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.

Due to the NHL’s new catch-all “unfit to play” phrase for when players don’t practice or play, it’s unlikely we’ll know what’s up with Shesterkin. He was shown during Game 1 watching from the stands, so it’s safe to say this isn’t related COVID-19. He’s considered day-to-day.

UPDATE: Following New York’s 3-2 Game 1 loss, Quinn said he wasn’t sure if Shesterkin will be ready for Game 2 on Monday.

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers

Saturday, Aug. 1: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN (Livestream)
Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

MORE:
Rangers vs. Hurricanes series preview
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule
Predictions for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
Why your team won’t (and will) win the Stanley Cup this season
NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Islanders beat Rangers in exhibition game; Shesterkin starts, but Lundqvist plays

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The New York Islanders took care of business in a 2-1 exhibition win against the Rangers on Wednesday.

For the most part, the Islanders succeeded as you might expect. They seized on Rangers mistakes, making it difficult for the Blueshirts to get much going.

Rangers start Shesterkin, Varlamov gets nod for Islanders in exhibition

When the Rangers did manage to get things going, they didn’t have a whole lot of luck. Semyon Varlamov made the play(s) of the game with some impressive saves. It seems like the Isles’ net is Varlamov’s to lose, although Thomas Greiss also saw action during the latter portion of the 2-1 win.

Varlamov stopped all 19 shots he saw in two periods of action, while Greiss gave up one Filip Chytil goal.

For whatever it’s worth, Igor Shesterkin started for the Rangers, who eventually also brought Henrik Lundqvist into the action. Each goalie allowed one goal, with Lundqvist having a busier night overall.

From my vantage point, Lundqvist looked pretty sharp, although he’d probably want that Devon Toews game-winner back. It would be foolish to put too much stock in an exhibition game, anyway, but Lundqvist performed admirably.

The Rangers need to tighten things up as they’ll face a tough opponent in the Hurricanes on Saturday. The Islanders, meanwhile, must hope that they see the same Panthers effort as Florida burped up in getting thumped by the Lightning.

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedules for Rangers and Islanders

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers

Saturday, Aug. 1: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers

Saturday, Aug. 1: Panthers vs. Islanders, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Panthers vs. Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

More on the NHL Return to Play:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hurricanes vs. Rangers: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview

The NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers kick off the Return to Play plan on August 1. This week, PHT will be previewing each series with a look at storylines and end with our predictions for the eight matchups.

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers — TV schedule, start times, channels

Saturday, Aug. 1: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

Hurricanes-Rangers preview: Top storylines for Stanley Cup Qualifiers series

Goalie decisions loom

Igor Shesterkin or Henrik Lundqvist? James Reimer or Petr Mrazek? The Rangers and Hurricanes arrived in Toronto this week without tipping their hands as to who will start Game 1.

Reimer (24 starts) didn’t play as much as Mrazek (38 starts), but he did post the better even strength save percentage (.920 vs. .912), per Natural Stat Trick. Same goes for the Rangers rookie who came on late in the season making 12 starts and posting a .931 ESSV% vs. Lundqvist’s .917. But in a best-of-five series, how much will Rod Brind’Amour and David Quinn weigh regular season success against experience?

This could be Lundqvist’s last run with the Rangers. One stat on his side to be the Game 1 starter is his regular season success against the Hurricanes. He won all three starts against Carolina, stopping at least 39 shots in each game and recorded a .947 save percentage.

Mrazek was the guy in net as the Hurricanes marched to the Eastern Conference Final a year ago. His experience and regular-season workload gives him the edge over Reimer. Whatever Brind’Amour’s choice, the Carolina defense will certainly help in the shot suppressing department (23 shots allowed/game at 5-on-5).

Quality vs. quantity shots

The Hurricanes not only move the puck well via their talented blue line, they also love to shoot it. Since Brind’Amour took over as head coach in 2018-19, only three NHL teams have more shots (3,970) on goal at even strength. They are the best possession team (55% Corsi) over that time as well, were third (54%) this season, and were third in high-danger scoring chances in 2019-20 (663).

New York didn’t shoot as much as Carolina, but capitalized more at even strength. They were just ahead of the Canes in high-danger goals for (90-87) and 5-on-5 goals (150-141). Leading the way were Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, who combined for 40 EV goals this season.

Getty Images

Depth stepping up

The Rangers’ dynamic duo were unstoppable during the regular season. Panarin, a worthy finalist for the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, put up 95 points in his first season in New York. Zibanejad was limited to just 57 games but still scored 41 times. There is some secondary scoring that can be provided by Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome, and Pavel Buchnevich. Beyond that? A pair of 10-plus goal scorers, including rookie Kaapo Kakko. It’s hard to rely on two lines to provide the bulk of your production.

It was at the trade deadline that the Hurricanes bulked up adding not only to their defense with Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen, but also Vincent Trocheck up front. Factor in the January return of Justin Williams and there’s enough balance up front to lead this team.

Who’s out? Who might return?

Hurricanes: Dougie Hamilton was injured during Phase 3 and he has joined the team in Toronto. There is no update on how much time he might miss. The defenseman was out for 21 games during the regular season after breaking his left fibula. Forward Martin Necas has missed the last few days after, according to Brind’Amour, he “did something while he was skating around.”

Rangers: K’Andre Miller signed his entry-level contract and participated in Phase 3, but is ineligible to play and will not be with the team in Toronto. Brendan Lemieux‘s suspension was finally announced this month and he’ll sit for the first two games of the series.

Mixing in the newbies

Trocheck and Skjei only played seven games following their trades from Florida and the Rangers, respectively. That’s not much time to settle in and learn a new system and familiarize yourself with new teammates. That’s what made Phase 3 so important. Incorporating the new guys into the fold, especially when this training camp leads into meaningful games and not early-season sleepers, was vital.

Skjei has certainly provided as much intel as he can to the Hurricanes’ coaching staff. He’s already said he has “a ton of motivation and a chip on my shoulder” going into the series. He may have friends on the other side of the ice, but those relationships will disappear when puck drops for real.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

A look at the Western Conference matchups
Previewing the Eastern Conference

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Rangers coach Quinn explains what makes Panarin special

Rangers head coach David Quinn gets a firsthand look at how dominant Artemi Panarin can be, so it makes sense that he’d provide interesting insight on the superstar winger.

During the latest episode of NBC Sports’ “Our Line Starts” podcast, Quinn explained that he believes Panarin is a unique talent. “Sneaky strength” is part of what makes Panarin special, according to Quinn.

Quinn explains what sets Panarin apart

It’s not sheer brute strength in the most direct, muscle-mass sense. Instead, Quinn explains that Panarin possesses significant hand and stick strength. Combine that with a world-class hockey IQ, and it helps explain why Panarin is so tough to stop.

Quinn cites a specific example of those qualities producing strong results for the Rangers. Back in late February, Panarin overpowered and beguiled multiple Islanders defenders to set up Mika Zibanejad‘s overtime goal:

Panarin sits tied with David Pastrnak for third in scoring this season with 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists [all career-highs]). The Hart Trophy argument improves for Panarin when you dig deeper. Take, for instance, Panarin standing atop the entire league by Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement metric:

Quinn Rangers Artemi Panarin GAR

More on the Rangers in “Our Line Starts”

Whether you prefer the “eye test,” enjoy supplementing sensory details with “fancy stats,” or delight in all of it as a hockey buffet, it’s clear that Panarin is a superstar. He’s also a lot of fun to watch, especially when he breaks out one of his goal celes.

Rangers head coach Quinn touched on other Rangers talking points with Liam McHugh and Anson Carter.

One of the more interesting bits revolves around how Henrik Lundqvist handled the competition with Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. It’s not surprising to learn that Lundqvist shows class, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless. Especially considering Mats Zuccarello‘s righteous anger regarding the treatment of Lundqvist from late April.

Check out the full episode in whatever format you prefer. There’s video above this headline, and an audio version below. Here’s a guide for different topics in case you want to skip around:

3:20-4:55 Quinn’s assessment of Rangers’ season
4:55-7:30 Zibanejad, and Panarin’s second half MVP push
7:30-9:45 Lundqvist’s demotion and the dilemma in goal
9:45-11:40 Learning from Bill Belichick
11:40-13:15 Taking over for the legendary Jack Parker
15:25-19:45 Quinn’s memory of his draft day in 1984
19:45-24:10 Fallout from Quinn’s hemophilia diagnosis
25:40-28:00 BU’s crushing loss in 2015 NCAA title game

 

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

More on the Rangers’ 2019-20 season:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Our Line Starts podcast: David Quinn on Panarin, Lundqvist, learning from Belichick

This week, Liam McHugh and Anson Carter are joined by New York Rangers head coach David Quinn. Among the topics: the incredible performances of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad this season, how Henrik Lundqvist handled a reduced role, and lessons learned from Bill Belichick while he was coaching at Boston University. Quinn also remembers his summer job delivering soda as a 1st round draft pick.

3:20-4:55 Quinn’s assessment of Rangers’ season
4:55-7:30 Zibanejad, and Panarin’s second half MVP push
7:30-9:45 Lundqvist’s demotion and the dilemma in goal
9:45-11:40 Learning from Bill Belichick
11:40-13:15 Taking over for the legendary Jack Parker
15:25-19:45 Quinn’s memory of his draft day in 1984
19:45-24:10 Fallout from Quinn’s hemophilia diagnosis
25:40-28:00 BU’s crushing loss in 2015 NCAA title game

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports