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Ex-Ranger Alexandar Georgiev now in ideal position with Avalanche

Alex Georgiev therefore returned to the scene of the Battle in the tunnel, where on Tuesday the Avalanche’s number 1 goalie got the showdown against Igor Shesterkin he had dreamed of for years.

And when that one ended, when Colorado prevailed in a 3-2 shootout that followed an entertaining and fast-paced affair that featured 90 combined shots, the former No. 40 celebrated in demonstrative triumph while being mobbed by his cheery teammates.

“It was pretty special,” the former Blueshirts substitute said after a 44-save performance which he capped by stopping three of four tries in the shootout. “This building is awesome and has so many memories for me.

“I wanted to let the game come to me. I tried not to put too much energy into thinking it was more than a normal game, which, come to think of it, it was.

Well, maybe. Well not really.

I will quote myself here. Georgiev is one of the best examples in NHL history of the upward slide, going from an unfortunate and below-average replacement for the Rangers his past two seasons to a starting role for the defending champions of the Stanley Cup.

The 26-year-old Bulgarian looks happy now, and why not, with a 4-0-1 start with a club that should retain their powerhouse status.

Alexandar Georgiev celebrates after the Rangers' 3-2 shootout loss to the Avalanche.
Alexandar Georgiev celebrates after the Rangers’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Avalanche.
Getty Images

“I so appreciate the chance to play for this team,” said Georgiev. “Couldn’t be better.”

The dueling guards traded save after save as if on the Tarrytown practice pond. Georgiev was quick, to the point and was able to avoid letting loose in front that undermined his last two seasons in New York. Shesterkin was acrobatic but initially blinked when committing a stickhandling blunder after drifting away from the net early in the third period on which Colorado scored a shorthanded goal to come up 2-1.

We all know that small sample numbers can be misleading. But oddly enough, Georgiev’s stats had tracked his last two years in New York pretty well – before this one. He had a save percentage below .900 in two of his four starts with the Avalanche after dropping below .900 in 14 of his 28 starts last year and nine of his 18 starts this season. 2020-21.

It’s 0.500 above (and below) 0.900, which usually doesn’t reflect victory for goaltenders. Again, Colorado won the Cup with a .901 save percentage while going 16-4 in the playoffs. Maybe it’s emblematic of a different formula.

Again, the Avalanche plays in another dimension.

Alexandar Georgiev blocks Alexis Lafrenière's shot in the shootout to secure the victory for the Avalanche.
Alexandar Georgiev blocks Alexis Lafrenière’s shot in the shootout to secure the victory for the Avalanche.
robert sabo

The Avalanche aren’t asking Georgiev to do for them what the Rangers ask Shesterkin and have asked Henrik Lundqvist throughout his tenure. Maybe “ask” is an understatement. Because the organization basically required their goalie to be the club’s best player on the ice basically every night in order to give the club a chance to win.

It was a bit like forcing Jacob deGrom to pitch seven or eight shutout innings every time he took the mound for the Mets to have a chance to win all those years. Of course, even that didn’t guarantee a win.

Shesterkin fulfilled that obligation last year by winning the Vezina and leading his team to the conference finals. Lundqvist carried that burden for a dozen years before the toll eventually led to an untimely decline. Of course, even that didn’t bring a Cup to New York.

Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev makes a first-period save in the Rangers' loss.
Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev makes a first-period save in the Rangers’ loss.
robert sabo

In his heart, Georgiev believed he should have had a greater opportunity to become the king’s heir. After serving as Lundqvist’s back-up for a chunk of three seasons prior to Shesterkin’s promotion from the AHL’s Wolf Pack midway through 2019-20, Georgiev’s status had been cemented. Shesterkin was No. 1 upon his arrival in early January.

The understudy role that Georgiev had embraced had become a straitjacket. The keeper who joined the Blueshirts shortly after The Letter was published decided he was being held and wanted out.

That doesn’t make him a bad person or a bad keeper. His 2020-21 season was marked by that post-game physical confrontation with Tony DeAngelo as the Blueshirts walked off the ice, which resulted in the defenseman being exiled. Georgiev lost his backup job to Keith Kinkaid for a time. Last year was a little better but it was also time to go.

And just before general manager Chris Drury was forced to let him go as a free agent by not qualifying him at $2.425 million, the Avalanche stepped up with an offer for a pair of third-round players. and a fifth. It was a fair price for both parties.

“I played with a lot of great players and for great staff in New York,” said the keeper. “When I look back, I think of the positives. There were a lot of them.”

Georgiev is in a better place now. Tuesday at the Garden, he was in place, 188 steps from Shesterkin, winning this Duel in Midtown Manhattan.

New York Post

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