Just over one month and five starts into his Rangers career, Jaro Halak has yet to win a game. But the 37-year-old veteran of 17 NHL seasons has hardly been beaten down by frustration over his 0-4-1 getaway.
Incredibly, he is the first Blueshirts goaltender to go winless in at least his first five starts since Gilles Villemure began his career going 0-3-3 in the span from 1963-64 through 1967-68. Ken McAuley holds the dubious distinction of going winless in his first 15 starts (0-14-1) for the 1943-44 wartime team that went 6-39-5.
“I’ve learned over my career that I can only control what I can control,” Halak, whose team has scored a total of five goals in his five starts, told The Post before the Blueshirts departed for Seattle for Thursday’s match that opens a four-game western tour. “I can’t control how many we score, only how many we give up.
“I go into each game trying to give the team a chance to win and I think I’ve done that for the most part.”
There was one bad start against Columbus at the Garden on Oct. 23 in which he allowed one dreadful goal and another marginal one in a 5-1 defeat. Otherwise, though, Halak has a 2.77 GAA and .905 save pct.
“It’s a long season. I just try and keep it simple and help the guys,” said Halak, who won his first three NHL starts after making his debut with Montreal on Feb. 18, 2007. “Maybe if we scored a few more we’d have two or three more wins, but I can’t worry about that.
“I just focus on my own game, and I feel good. I’m not frustrated or worried. The wins will come.”
There was, however, an obvious moment of frustration — or perhaps, rage — when Halak repeatedly smashed his stick against the post after Dominik Kubalik’s power-play goal in overtime gave Detroit a 3-2 victory at the Garden on Nov. 6.
“That was just in the moment,” Halak said. “It was a questionable penalty and the way it ended, but it was just that game and moment.”
Head coach Gerard Gallant said that he is not concerned with the increased ice time he has awarded his marquee players, most notably Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad.
“I don’t think it’s an issue,” Gallant said. “I’d like to get more for the other guys sometimes but [the top guys] are playing good hockey and as soon as I sit them down a little bit, then they’re looking at me because they want to get on the ice.
“That’s the problem we have with those guys, they want to be on the ice all the time and they’ll get their rest the next day in practice. You definitely look at the game sheet sometimes and see they’re playing a few too many minutes, but it’s about winning right now.
“We’ll get to the quarter point of the season soon. We definitely look at it all the time.”
The Blueshirts have personnel on the staff who constantly monitor their players’ physical condition and fitness and who interact with the coaches on a regular basis.
“The professionals are not telling me [players] are tired yet and they look at the data all the time,” Gallant said. “They’re saying they’re fine.”
Vitali Kravtsov returned to the ice after missing the last two games with dental issues, joining Sunday’s second-line configuration of Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Barclay Goodrow to form a four-man unit.
“He looked great out there,” Gallant said. “He was flying and looked really healthy.”
The coach did not, however, commit to reinserting Kravtsov into the lineup on Thursday.
“I haven’t made a decision,” he said before referring to Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Coyotes. “We just played a pretty good strong game and I liked the way the lines were going after the first period.
“But we have two days to decide that and we have a practice set for [in Seattle].”