New York Rangers backup situation much better with Jaroslav Halak

This season, Igor Shesterkin will have a new partner to tend goal with after Alexandar Georgiev was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. Veteran backup, Jaroslav Halak signed a one year-deal for $1.5M as a free agent on July 13.

So far, Halak has been strong in training camp and looking every bit the right guy to play behind last year’s Vezina winner.

Halak, 37, posted a 4-7-2 record with a .903 SV% and a 2.94 GAA in a limited role with the Canucks in 2021-22 as Thatcher Demko’s understudy. For his career, the native of Bratislava, Czechoslovakia has appeared in 556 games and boasts a record of 285-180-64 with 52 shutouts.

He’s a known battler with a career .916 SV% and a 2.49 GAA in stops with Montreal, St. Louis, NY Islanders, Washington, Boston, and Vancouver.

Georgiev, 26, wanted to be a starter and was never comfortable in a backup role. Last season, he often struggled and finished with a below .900 save percentage (.898) in 33 games.

On the flip, Halak has played the backup role for three straight seasons posting good numbers. In 67 games played, he’s 31-19-12 with a 2.55 GAA and a .912 SV%.

Jaroslav Halak a perfect New York Rangers backup

jaroslav halak
Sep 30, 2022; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save while New Jersey Devils right wing Alexander Holtz (10) looks for the rebound during the second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

This summer, Shesterkin spoke to Russian outlet RBC and talked about his new partner in net.

“Competition with any goalkeeper should spur you on, because without it there is no professional growth,” Shesterkin said. “Now our team has signed Jaroslav Halak. I am sure that the competition will also be serious, plus you can learn something from him, as he is a very experienced goalkeeper. And I wish Alexander Georgiev only good luck.”

This preseason, Halak has played in two exhibition games splitting time with Louis Domingue. In 61:24, he’s stopped 29 of 30 shots sent his way.

He was rock solid against the Bruins in his first outing only surrendering one goal on 15 shots. Against the Devils on Friday night, Halak was outstanding and showed off that never give up on a play mentality that’s given him success. He stopped all 15 shots directed his way in 32:46 of play allowing the Rangers to come from behind in the third period for the a 2-1 win.

The Rangers have two more preseason games left, he should start and go the distance in one of them.

If you can’t beat him

Another reason the Rangers probably signed him as their new backup is so they wouldn’t have to face him anymore.

Halak knows what life is like playing in the Eastern Conference having gone to war with the Rangers over the years as a member of the Islanders and Bruins. Matter of fact, Halak is 24-9-1 for his career against the Blueshirts. By far the most wins against any team he’s faced (two teams tied at 15).

Backing up an elite starter is nothing new to him either. The Canucks’ Demko is a workhorse leaving Halak with only making 17 appearances last season. He will certainly play more in New York to give Igor the rest he needs for what the team hopes is a long playoff run.

The Rangers finished the 2021-22 campaign with 110 points, good for second in the Metro Division. They were 16-11-2 in games Shesterkin did not start, with Georgiev going 15-10-2 in his contests.

If Halak can pick up a few more points, that could be the difference in the Rangers winning the Metropolitan Division for the first time since 2014-15.

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