Upon boarding their flight home from Calgary, the Rangers were staring reality in the face.
Three weeks into the season, the Blueshirts were 6-3-3 — a good record held up mostly by Igor Shesterkin’s play in net. They had just dropped three straight in Canada, blowing leads and falling in overtime at both Vancouver and Edmonton before getting embarrassed, 6-0, in Calgary on Nov. 6.
This, they knew, was not a sustainable formula.
“I think we had some talks,” Ryan Reaves said following Monday’s practice. “We had some hard practices. I think we all had to look in the mirror and kind of figure out what we wanted from this season. Did we want to be mediocre and keep doing what has been happening here for the last couple years or do we want to be a playoff team?”
That message fell on listening ears. The Rangers have lost just one game in the month since while winning 10. Though Shesterkin has remained a centerpiece, the Rangers held on after he exited early with a lower-body injury during a 1-0 win against San Jose on Friday and beat the Blackhawks on Saturday night with Alexandar Georgiev in net.
No longer are the wins merely a product of a goaltender standing on his head.
“I don’t know if there was anything that really switched,” Ryan Lindgren said. “It just seemed like we were getting more comfortable with each other.”
Reaves, who has been to the past nine postseasons with the Blues and Golden Knights, described it like this:
“Your game has to be ready for the playoffs. You can’t find your game. You can’t squeak into the playoffs and think you’re gonna do something. The game’s gotta be there for a good time before that. And I think everybody in that room is realizing it now.
“We’re starting to look like a playoff team.”
Georgiev will start Tuesday night’s game at the Blackhawks, according to coach Gerard Gallant. With a back-to-back looming with a Wednesday home game against Colorado, there’s been no decision yet on whether Georgiev will play both or AHL call-up Adam Huska will get a chance.
Though Georgiev has struggled this year with an .876 save percentage, he has stopped 34 of 36 shots since Shesterkin left Friday night’s game against the Sharks.
Gallant said he believes Shesterkin will travel with the team to Chicago, but is unsure whether he’ll skate on Tuesday or just get treatment.
Adam Fox missed Monday’s practice with a maintenance day.