Alexandar Georgiev to Be Only Bulgarian-Born Player in Revised NHL Playoffs
The NHL has defied the odds to find a way to stage a revised postseason schedule. The new NHL playoffs format, which involves more stages and games than a standard postseason, sees the North America-based hockey league set up shop exclusively in Canada, with 12 teams assembling in Edmonton and 12 staying in Toronto.
Amongst the 12 teams playing their games in Toronto, the New York Rangers might be the most intriguing for Bulgarian sports fans as Alexandar Georgiev has a shot at becoming the hero that the underdog outfit needs.
Bulgaria’s NHL representative
Born in the fifth-largest city of the country, Ruse, Georgiev became the first-ever player of Bulgarian origin to play in the NHL on 22 February, 2018. In his debut season, the goaltender of dual citizenship (Bulgarian and Russian) recorded four wins in ten games.
Last season, he stepped up to seal 14 wins in 33 games, improving further in this shortened campaign to 17 wins in 34 games. Despite the New York Rangers boasting the already legendary Henrik Lundqvist and the top prospect Igor Shesterkin, Georgiev finished the season with the most starts, which included two shutouts.
The Rangers were in the mix for a wild card place with 12 games to go, and now they’ll compete in the Qualifying Round. Coming into the five-game series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the oddsmakers of the hockey betting can’t decide on a favorite to go deep, with their Eastern Conference winner ratings seeing both the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers on 21.00, sitting just behind sixth-ranked Toronto on 13.00 and ahead of the 23.00 New York Islanders.
There’s always a team that storms into the playoffs to upset the odds. While the Bruins, Lightning, and Golden Knights lead in the odds for the Stanley Cup, Carolina in 2019, Vegas in 2018, and Nashville in 2017 have all recently proven that any team can go on a hotstreak to surpass all expectations.
Given his standing throughout the season and the likely need to rotate netminders after the long break, Georgiev may be positioned perfectly to become an unlikely hero for the underdog Rangers.
A three-star battle for the crease
According to Rangers coach David Quinn, the battle for the starting Rangers job in the playoffs is very tight, with all three putting in strong showings before the restart of competitive hockey. While rookie Shesterkin put up the best statistics over a shorter sample, and Georgiev and Lundqvist endured through notably bad spells for the defense.
Furthermore, the Rangers may recall a cautionary tale posted by Lundqvist in his rookie season. After smashing regular-season records as a Rangers rookie, Lundqvist struggled greatly in the postseason, going 0-3 with a .835 save percentage. Shesterkin is a very exciting young goalie, but the playoffs – even in these bizarre circumstances – are a much more intense and physical than games of the regular season.
While the experience of Lundqvist and the hype around Shesterkin may see them placed ahead of Georgiev, the knock-out nature of the playoffs mean that the Rangers have to roll with the hot hand. If either of them slip-up or get injured, the Bulgarian could break in and become New York’s hero in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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