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22 Jun, 2022 08:37

Russian goalie crowned NHL’s best

Igor Shesterkin won the accolade for the league’s best goaltender at the NHL Awards
Russian goalie crowned NHL’s best

Russia’s Igor Shesterkin collected the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goalie at the NHL Awards on Tuesday night, with the star recognized for his remarkable performances with the New York Rangers.

Shesterkin, 26, was widely seen as a certainty for the accolade given his stellar form as the Rangers embarked on a first Stanley Cup Playoffs run since 2017, ultimately falling in the Eastern Conference Final against two-time defending champion the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In winning the Vezina Trophy, which is voted for by NHL general managers, Shesterkin pipped fellow award finalists Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames and Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators.

The Russian was seen as head and shoulders above his rivals, earning 29 of 32 first-place votes from the panel after ending the season with a league-leading average of 2.07 goals-against and a .935 save percentage (minimum 20 games).

Shesterkin was also third in shutouts (six), sixth in wins, and had a save percentage of at least .940 in 26 starts, according to the NHL website.

His save percentage was the third highest of all time in a single season among goalies to play at least 50 games.

Shesterkin, who was also named on the 2022 NHL First All-Star team, follows compatriot Andrei Vasilevskiy as the second Russian goalie to win the Vezina Trophy in the last four years, with Tampa Bay Lightning star Vasilevskiy picking up the accolade in 2019.

Before that, Russia’s Sergei Bobrovsky picked up the title twice in the space of five years.

Legendary Soviet stopper and current Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak was full of praise, saying Shesterkin was continuing a strong tradition.

“I would like to congratulate Shesterkin on a great event in his life,” Tretiak told Championat

“Igor continues the mark of Russian goalkeeping art. We have good guys. Vasilevsky received the best player in the playoffs last year, and previously won the Vezina.”

“It is very difficult to win the Vezina Trophy, but it is even more difficult to receive an award for the second time. Therefore, [I wish] the stability of Shesterkin and success in the next season. And congratulations.”

Shesterkin was drafted to the Rangers in 2014, going on to replace his hero Henrik Lundqvist as the team’s number one goaltender for the 2020-21 season.

He received a congratulatory video for his achievement from his current Rangers teammates on Tuesday night.

“You’re the backbone of our team and I’m sure this won’t be your last Vezina,” said defenseman Adam Fox.

The Rangers’ Russian winger Artemi Panarin said: “Congrats buddy. Keep it going. You deserve it,” before adding light-heartedly: “Thanks for my blocked shots too, right?”

In a message of his own, Shesterkin said: “I’m so excited. It’s a great night for me and I hope it’s a great night for New York. Thank you so much, Rangers fans. I love you so much. See you soon.”

While he was crowned the NHL’s best goalie, Shesterkin did miss out on the Hart Trophy for the league’s MVP, which went to Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Meanwhile, Russian interest in the NHL continues with Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, as the Colorado Avalanche take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightening are aiming to level the series at 2-2 after their victory in Florida earlier this week, and boast Russian trio Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev in their ranks.

The Avs have in-form Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin on their roster.