(Seattle Hockey Insider will be in Denver providing Seattle Kraken coverage for the 1st-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs)
The Seattle Kraken will face a Bulgarian-born, Russian trained goaltender starting his first ever Stanley Cup playoff game. Alexandar Georgiev grew a solid reputation as a partner and back-up to Igor Shesterkin with the New York Rangers between 2017 and 2022.
Never drafted into the NHL, Georgiev was signed by the Rangers as a 21-year-old after three professional seasons in the Finnish Elite League (SM Liiga). While showing flashes of brilliance, he never really found his legs with the Broadway Blueshirts while playing behind Shesterkin, a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate and the 2022 winner of that award as the NHL’s top goalie.
After a trade last July to become the Avalanche’s new number-one, Georgiev signed a three-year deal. It’s paid off. With opportunity has come performance. He and Boston’s Linus Ullmark shared the league lead in victories with 40, while Georgiev posted a season goals against average of 2.53 and a save percentage of .919. For newcomers, that basically means he stopped 92% of shots-on-goal.
Forty wins for a guy who had never played more than 34 games in a prior NHL season.
“He’s found a way and kind of worked his way into that (number-one) role,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar told the media on Monday. “We’ve talked about it before, when (Pavel Francouz) got hurt the first time, how (Georgiev) handled playing every night and how he handled the pressure and adjustments he made to try to sort of step away from games on the off days, and not have to worry about it or mentally grind over the next game.
“That’s served him well over the course of the season and he’s gotten better and better as the season’s gone on and he’ll have to do the same again in the playoffs.”
Prior to this series, Georgiev has appeared in a grand total of two career Stanley Cup Playoff games, both in relief, both last season.
“I don’t think about it every single second of the day,” Georgiev told the media. “I’m sure there will be a little more adrenaline than usual the first game, but that’s fine, too. I think it helps a bit as well.”
It sounds a little bit like Georgiev’s a thinker. Could the Kraken get inside his head with some early success? Messing with his confidence would only serve to help Seattle’s. They’ll need it, the Avalanche have absolutely annihilated 1st-round opponents the last four seasons. Colorado has swept its last two 1st-round series and presently owns a ten-game win streak in conference quarter-finals dating back to 2020 in the ‘bubble’.
One way the Kraken can mess with that record: get to the goalie. One knows the Avalanche will be doing everything they can at the other end to mess with their former teammate of three seasons Philipp Grubauer.
By the way, Colorado back-up Francouz is no slouch. He stepped in and won six playoff games last spring, four of them as the starter. His regular season numbers this time around are very similar to Georgiev’s.
In other words, the defending Stanley Cup champions have strong options in net should something go amiss.
Entering the series, the Avalanche have the edge in net. It’s up to the Kraken to rock the boat.