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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Igor Shesterkin talks everything Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist, NYC

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Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin takes a shot at some Q&A through a translator with Post columnist Steve Serby. 

Q: What one area of your game would you like to improve? 

A: I feel that if I would talk about this here, other teams would see this interview and then they would kinda steal my secrets. So I won’t be talking about that here, but I do know what I need to work on, and I’m working on that. 

Q: How do you get over a bad game? Have you ever lost sleep at night? 

A: I understand that everyone has bad days, but you just have to start from a blank slate every day. Obviously, sometimes you can’t sleep. I try to calm down in some way. Sometimes I meditate to kinda calm down. But in the next game, you can’t really focus on what happened previously, you just have to kind of separate yourself from that. 

Q: What is it like for you when you hear the fans chant your name at the Garden? 

A: Every time it’s almost as if they’re doing it for the first time and I get goose bumps, and it just motivates me to make more saves. 

Igor Shesterkin
The Rangers have relied heavily on Igor Shesterkin, who has faced the fourth-most shots in the NHL this season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: Describe your mentality in the net. 

A: I try to focus solely on the puck, just zone out everything, push out everything else and focus more on the opponent and the puck, and what they can do and what I can do to stop it … stop them. 

Q: What goes through your mind when a player is on a breakaway? 

A: I try to figure out what this player can do, what I can do to stop it. Nobody is going to come to my aid so I have to get out of the situation myself. 

Q: Do you ever feel pressure knowing your teammates depend so much on you to win? 

A: Obviously, I depend on them as well. Everybody depends on each other and it’s a team sport, and everybody has to work together. 

Q: Where is your confidence level now and what was it like when you first started playing in the NHL? 

A: A lot less nervous before games than I was when I began to play, and it’s just a lot easier to tune out everything not related to the game and focus on what I’m going to do on the ice. Sometimes there actually isn’t enough of that nervousness because it actually does help in a sense that it makes my movements sharper and makes my game more compact. I need to work a lot more to reach a new level of play. 

Q: Were there any other adjustments other than to the smaller ice surface you had to make? 

A: When I played in the KHL, there were some teams that did play on a smaller ice rink, the Canadian-style ice rink. And I played at the World Juniors in Canada, so I had some experience with that style of play, but obviously I did have to adjust a little bit when I came to the NHL. I was really helped by my coaches. [Benoit] Allaire, he gave me some pointers, showed me how to kinda play on this kind of field. And another big difference was that the space in front of the goal is usually a lot more crowded in the NHL, and there’s just a lot more contact with the goalie. And at first, I kinda didn’t really like that, but now I’m kind of comfortable with it, that’s just how the game works. 

Q: Boyhood idol? 

A: My role model when I was a kid was [Henrik] Lundqvist. I can’t really say why, but I definitely liked his style of play and his behavior off and on the ice. I actually wanted his uniform before he played on the Rangers, but I was told that that uniform would not fit me. 

Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned from Lundqvist? 

A: I didn’t really talk to him, but I looked up to him, and in a sense I learned from him without words, just by watching. 

Q: Are there other goaltenders you liked or like to watch? 

A: Obviously, I watch many goalies, mostly Russian nowadays, because I kinda feel at home watching them, and I just like the Russian goalkeeping style overall. And I can always contact one of them, for example Ilya Sorokin, and kind of note all of the nuances of the game and discuss them. I don’t really watch one person constantly. I mostly just focus on watching the highlights, and kind of just watching a little bit of everything. 

Fellow Russian goaltenders Ilya Sorokin (left) and Igor Shesterkin (right)
Fellow Russian goaltenders Ilya Sorokin (left) and Igor Shesterkin (right)
Getty Images

Q: What do you like best about this Rangers team? 

A: This team has a good blend both of experience and young players, players who have won the Stanley Cup, others who have not, but everybody comes together to work and improve on their game. And I also just love the atmosphere on the team, especially in the arena, you can just play hockey and focus on hockey. 

Q: What impresses you about [Artemi] Panarin? 

A: He is a great player. He’s an amazing person, he’s quick-witted on the ice and he sees the game laid out before him very well, he just sees all of the patterns. 

Q: Adam Fox? 

A: He’s also a great person and a great player. He’s one of the best defenders with whom I have gotten to play. I just love smart players that are able to think for themselves, kind of know what’s best for me. He has good chemistry with [Ryan] Lindgren as well, and honestly just the whole defensive lineup is well-balanced, has great chemistry and everything is just in our hands. 

Q: Mika [Zibanejad]? 

A: All the best words I can think of, he’s a great person and an amazing player, he’s just one of the leaders on the team that all of us just look up to, follow, and I love playing with him and also talking to him, communicating with him off of the ice as well. 

Q: What is it like playing for coach [Gerard] Gallant? 

A: I just like everything about him. He has very positive energy, always has the right words. And I feel that our whole team just kind of plays for him and he inspires us to play very well and everyone on our team will always be there for such a great coach, we’ll always be there to back him up with anything. 

Q: Your single best moment in hockey? 

A: When we won the Cup of the KHL, the Gagarin Cup, the World Juniors, and many other memorable moments … and I still remember the first time I came out on the ice and the first crazy save I made. There are lots of these moments, and every moment is a warm and jelly memory. 

Q: Any favorite New York City things? 

A: I’m mostly at home with my wife. I just enjoy being at home with her. She cooks very well, so we really don’t go out to eat that often, and sometimes the food there is a whole lot worse than her cooking, so I much prefer being at home. We love going for walks, and I can’t really wait to get our dog back, ’cause it’s still in Moscow. There’s some rule changes with rabies shots and everything in the U.S., so we just hope everything works out and we get the dog back. I just love being outside in general because we live on the waterfront, and everyone out there is constantly exercising and just meeting all these positive people going for runs and everything and it almost makes you want to go for a run yourself. 

Q: What kind of dog? 

A: The dog is a goldendoodle, her name is Simba. 

Q: Are you recognized in Manhattan? 

A: Honestly, not really that often. I’m not that famous in such a big city. I can just kind of walk freely and completely in peace without being bothered. 

Igor Shesterkin
Igor Shesterkin
Robert Sabo

Q: Does your family get to see you play in New York? 

A: They live in Moscow but they do come to visit me once a year on my birthday, December 30, but they always find out when matches are, they always wake up early in the morning to turn on the TV and watch me play. 

Q: Superstitions? 

A: Yeah there are many of ’em [laugh]. 

Q: Hobbies? 

A: I like resting, resting my mind. Sometimes I’ll play some video games, some computer games, but really only for an hour or so. I used to love playing Legos back in Russia. I just love checking out apartments online in different places and just dreaming about living there. 

Q: Three dinner guests? 

A: If I could speak English I’d choose Lundqvist, Mike Richter and [Wayne] Gretzky. 

Q: Favorite movie? 

A: A lot of Marvel movies, such as Iron Man for example. Out of the famous ones, I would probably say Shawshank Redemption. 

Q: Favorite actor? 

A: Jason Statham. 

Q: Favorite meal? 

A: I just love breakfast in general. My wife knows that. We make these amazing sandwiches with avocado and salmon and scrambled eggs, I just can’t describe how amazing they are. I just love Japanese cuisine, like sushi and stuff. 

Q: Where do you go for pizza in New York? 

A: I haven’t yet gotten pizza once in New York. I can’t really say. 

Q: Why not? 

A: Honestly, I don’t know, if you can recommend something I’ll write it down, I’ll check it out. 

Q: How would you describe Rangers fans? 

A: The atmosphere is always just crazy, it’s really great. There’s constant support from the fans, and you’re really just living hockey when you’re at the arena. Every person just kinda jumps out of their seat. I’m lucky to be here. 

Q: Q: If a Rangers fan asked you: Can this team win a Stanley Cup, what would you tell them? 

A: I will do everything I can, that I will put in all of my effort to make sure that the Cup comes to this city and to this team.

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