RALEIGH | On the eve of Game 7 of the second round between the Rangers and the Hurricanes, one of the hot topics revolved around goaltenders. But the speech had nothing similar from one team to another.
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With the Hurricanes, Rod Brind'Amour answered another time a question about the identity of his starter. As he did minutes after the 5-2 loss at Madison Square Garden in Game 6, Brind'Amour reiterated his faith in Antti Raanta.
"Raanta has been phenomenal since the start of the playoffs," said the 'Canes' head coach. Yes, there are two goals he would like to see again. But he will prepare for Game 7. The Rangers goaltender has already been knocked out of a playoff game. These are things that can happen. »
Like his team, Raanta has a perfect record on the PNC Arena rink in Raleigh. He had six wins in his six starts, maintaining a microscopic 0.97 GAA and .965 save percentage.
With the seventh game to be played in North Carolina, Brind'Amour has no choice but to continue with his 33-year-old Finnish goalkeeper. And even if he wanted to brew his soup, Frederik Andersen has still not received the green light from doctors for a return to play.
In perfect confidence
Like the Hurricanes, the Rangers did not skate on the eve of this crucial meeting. Gerard Gallant met a handful of reporters at a posh hotel in suburban Raleigh minutes after the team arrived.
Gallant also talked about his goalkeeper, but the subject was more cheerful the day after a sparkling performance from Igor Shesterkin.
"He's great," said Gallant, who was seated at the end of a long brown table in a conference room. He is a candidate for the Hart and Vézina trophies this year. He had an incredible season and he's still dominant in the playoffs. We can count on him in key moments. He always gives us a chance to win, no matter who we face. »
Shesterkin has kept the Rangers alive four times since the start of the playoffs, earning all four of his starts when facing elimination. He's done it three times against the Penguins in the first round and now once against the Hurricanes.
From Hellebuyck to Shesterkin
Former teammate of Connor Hellebuyck, 2020 Vezina Trophy winner with the Winnipeg Jets, Andrew Copp, had bright eyes when talking about his young goaltender.
"I don't want to take anything away from Helly [Hellebuyck], he's a fantastic goaltender, but Shesterkin is just amazing," Copp said. The two goalkeepers have the same mentality. They believe they can block all the pucks they receive. When Shesterkin is beaten, he seeks to understand the reasons. He really has overwhelming confidence. And he also has a short-term memory, he has a knack for forgetting a goal quickly. In addition to his saves, Igor is also very good outside his net to restart the game with good passes. »
If there's a negative mark in Shesterkin's record, it's his record on opposing rinks in the playoffs. He has a record of one win and four losses with a 3.82 GAA and .881 save percentage.