When Alexandar Georgiev entered the NHL, he did so as a backup to one of the greatest goaltenders of all time.
Now, Georgiev is the one to shine in his first real opportunity as a starting goaltender in the NHL. And his former goalkeeper is a believer.
During Wednesday night’s broadcast of the Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild game, Henrik Lundqvist was one of TNT’s intermediate analysts. When the panel asked Lundqvist if Georgiev has what it takes to lead a team to a Stanley Cup, he didn’t hesitate in his answer.
He explained a bit more about Georgiev’s ability to be a starting goalkeeper.
“He has the mentality to do it and he really wants to do it,” Lundqvist said on national television.
On Friday afternoon I told Georgiev that Lundqvist had a lot of good things to say about him on TV.
He couldn’t help but smile.
“That’s amazing,” he said.
The two worked together with the New York Rangers from 2017 until Lundqvist left in 2020. To this day, they still have a good relationship.
“He’s an amazing guy,” Georgiev said of Lundqvist. “I loved working with him. I have to catch up a bit this season with him as well. He’s doing great, enjoying his TV time. He’s got the looks for it, and he’s really smart. He knows a lot about hockey. It was a pleasure working with him and now he’s found some really fun jobs for himself.”
Still, Lundqvist’s transition to television wasn’t exactly what he expected.
“Everybody expected that he would be with the Rangers organization in some kind of capacity,” Georgiev said. “But then he had this opportunity on television. It’s very fitting, I guess.
On the ice, Georgiev had just played back-to-back nights, with trips in between. He’s done it before this year, and there’s a good chance he’ll do it again. Pavel Francouz will miss about three weeks, and the team will play two more games in a row soon.
That doesn’t bother him much, especially since he’s already had to deal with a much tougher scenario this season.
“I felt like after playing back-to-back in Finland, we had to switch time zones for a week, nine hours apart from Denver.” he said. “It seemed like this would not be more challenging.”
It certainly didn’t look like it on the ice. While much of the team looked tired against the Wild, Georgiev didn’t. He stopped 41 of the 43 shots he faced, and the Avalanche held on for a big win. Just 24 hours earlier, he stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced in a shootout loss to the Lightning. Getting a good night’s sleep and mental reset was huge for him.
“I felt maybe even better in the second game than the first,” he said.
It’s barely mid-February, and Georgiev has already surpassed his career high for games played in a year. I asked him if he did something drastically different over the summer to prepare, knowing that he had a chance to be “the man” on the net.
“Not really,” he told CHN. “In terms of preparing for the summer, I always prepared myself to play a lot, to be in very good shape.”
However, he mentioned a small difference.
“This summer was a bit different,” Georgiev said. “The last two summers, I was on the ice a lot, but it was kind of ice for a lot of players, where maybe it wasn’t the most beneficial thing for me in the summer. This time, I felt like I was doing a lot more goalkeeping stuff. Goalkeeper specific stuff. Not too many shots, just working on technique. Otherwise, pretty much the same as usual.”
It seems to have been worth it. The 27-year-old has been a revelation in the net for the Avalanche, drawing high praise from his teammates, coaches and league experts.
Still, hearing that Lundqvist endorses him seemed very special to him.
“I haven’t heard what he said, but it’s a privilege,” Georgiev said. “He is one of the best grades in the game. It’s very special that he thinks highly of me.”