Igor Shesterkin vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy: Breaking down the Rangers-Lightning goalie matchup

The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning have both been tested throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now the two powerhouses will battle for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup as they face off in the Eastern Conference Final.

When the series begins on Wednesday night, arguably the biggest storyline will be the historic goaltending matchup between the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin. Here’s the tale of the tape on both stars:

Andrei Vasilevskiy by the numbers

Vasilevskiy single-handedly stole the show in the Eastern Conference Semifinals when he helped his team easily handle the top-seeded Florida Panthers. The 27-year-old goalie held the Panthers, who scored an NHL-best 4.11 goals-per-game during the regular season, to just three goals in a four-game sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

In a 2-0 win over the Panthers in Game 4, Vasilevskiy rose to the occasion like he has so many times before. The Lightning netminder stopped all 49 shots that he faced as he set an NHL record with his sixth shutout in a series-clinching game. In Vasilevskiy’s last seven series-clinching games, he’s faced 200 shots and only allowed one goal. 

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So far, Vasilevskiy has put together an 8-3 record in the playoffs to go along with a 2.23 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage. The Lightning star has yielded just 25 goals in 11 starts .

Vasilevskiy is already placing himself among the all-time greats. He’s already accumulated 57 playoff wins, which puts him at No. 17 on the all-time playoff wins list. Ironically enough, Vasilevskiy is just four wins from tying former Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for 15th place on the all-time playoff wins list. Speaking of Lundqvist…

Igor Shesterkin by the numbers

The Rangers were able to make a seamless transition from their legendary netminder to Shesterkin. Lundqvist’s final season in New York came in the 2019-20 campaign and Shesterkin was already showing flashes of just how much potential he had.

This season, Shesterkin, 24, has established himself as one of the league’s premier goaltenders.

Shesterkin proved to be a force in net throughout the regular season and was named a Vezina Trophy finalist as one of the NHL’s top goalies. The Rangers netminder had a 36-13-4 record and tallied a league-best 2.07 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage.

The only real question mark when it came to Shesterkin was his lack of postseason experience. He had just one playoff start to his credit, which came against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the Qualifying Round during the COVID-19-shortened season in 2020. The inexperience did show earlier this postseason vs. the Penguins, as Shesterkin posted a 3.57 goals-against-average across the seven-game series — despite stopping a Rangers record 79 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1.

However, Shesterkin rebounded in a big way against Carolina, as he produced a 1.71 goals-against-average throughout the seven-game series. In addition, the Rangers goalie surrendered just one goal in three of those games and only allowed more than two goals in one game against the Hurricanes.

It’s no secret that both Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin are playing with a ton of confidence and have looked downright elite in recent weeks. They’re going to need to continue to play that way as both offenses are scoring nearly three-and-a-half goals per contest.

This series is expected to be the exact opposite of the Western Conference Final, where goals will be scored left and right. The Eastern Conference Final will be all about the play between the pipes, and there are two stellar netminders that could hold the keys to their respective teams advancing to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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