NY Islanders: Ilya vs Igor is the friendliest of rivalries

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

A fierce rivalry between Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin works perfectly from a storyline perspective. After playing against each other for years in the KHL, two Russian-born goaltenders find their way to New York and are in the middle of one of the most heated rivalries in NHL history.

The only problem is, they're great friends, have known each other since they were teens, and this weekend in Sunrise, FL, are both All-Stars and teammates representing the Metropolitan Division. The two text each other all the time, and not about hockey. Sorokin and Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov were guests at Shesterkin's house for Christmas. Oh, and as we learned yesterday, Sorokin is now the Godfather to Shesterkin's son.

"It’s really good. [We] played together in junior team when we were 16. Now we play in NHL. … Now we play in All-Star. So it’s really a cool thing for us.”"

Ilya Sorokin

“When I saw [Shesterkin] at the hotel, they were together today,” Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said. “It’s pretty remarkable. Two of the best goaltenders in the league and they’re good friends. Obviously, it’s a lot of fun to have Shesty in net. He saves our behinds a lot.”

Shesterkin came to the NHL earlier and already has a Vezina Trophy after a remarkable 2021-22 season, where he led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final. But the debate as to which goaltender is better is far from over. Despite Shesterkin being selected as the starter for the Metropolitan Division, Sorokin has the edge in every goaltending statistic outside of W-L, including save percentage, where his .923 ranks second in the league.

There haven't been many regular season match ups between the two and there won't be any more this season since the Islanders and Rangers season series wrapped up in December after only three regular season games. Provided Sorokin, an unrestricted free agent, signs an extension, you would think that eventually the two friends would square off in a playoff series.

Then again, the two rivals haven't met in the post-season since 1994, and it's unlikely to happen this season, given each team's current position. If and when it finally happens, it will be a treat for it to occur with two great goalies (and friends) in a net.