Rangers’ Jaroslav Halak has been saving grace for dominant run to 2023

Rangers get major contributions from Jaro Halak
CORRECTS BY REMOVING THIRD PERIOD – Detroit Red Wings left wing Dominik Kubalik (81) watches his winning overtime goal hit the back of the net as New York Rangers goalie Jaroslav Halak looks back during an NHL hockey game Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Munson)
AP Photos

The New York Rangers are 9-2-2 since the start of the calendar year. In their last 27 contests, they’ve recorded points in 22 of them. 

The usual culprits have been major reasons why. Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Igor Shesterkin have shrugged off slow starts to lead a team that is hitting its stride before the trade deadline. 

But while Shesterkin has dominated in his usual run as one of the top goalies in hockey, it’s his backup that has become an unsung hero for the streaking Rangers. 

After starting the season 1-6-1 while recording over a .900% save percentage just once in the eight games, Jaroslav Halak has turned his season around and has been a key contributor to the Rangers’ run over the last few months. 

Halak has won each of his last six starts and hasn’t lost since the beginning of December. His .928% save percentage is 13 percentage points higher than his career average. He’s also come up huge in key moments over the course of the last month as well. 

No clearer example could be made of Halak’s impact more than the Rangers’ win on Monday night. New York was able to come away with a 5-4 overtime victory, but key saves throughout the night from Halak kept the Blueshirts in the game and ultimately helped them win it. 

Keep in mind, the Rangers had not played for over a week with the team’s bye week mixing perfectly with all-star weekend. Head coach Gerard Gallant chose not to go with the reigning Vezina winner directly out of the gate but instead chose the wily veteran to get New York off to a strong start to the second half of the season. 

Of course, this isn’t to say that Jaroslav Halak is better than Igor Shesterkin. But Halak’s importance as Igor’s backup is paramount for a team trying to climb up the Metro division standings. The more trustworthy a goalie like Halak is, the more often the Rangers can save Shesterkin for bigger matchups and keep him fresh for what should be a deep Stanley Cup playoff hunt. 

Igor Shesterkin is getting the start Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. And while this is the first time the Garden-faithful will see their top goaltender since January 25th, the team is in the position they are in over the last few games because of the steady dependability of Jaro Halak. 

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