The timing couldn`t be better. On the heels of Lars Eller`s jaw-dropping, four-goal, first-star performance Wednesday night at the Bell Centre against the Winnipeg Jets, news trickled out Thursday that my main man Jaroslav Halak will likely be starting in goal for the St. Louis Blues when they hit town Tuesday.
You`ll recall – how could you forget? – that Halak was traded to the Blues in June of 2010 in exchange for the young Mr. Eller and right-winger Ian Schultz (the latter who has yet to play for Nos Habs). You remember because many of us were ready to riot in the streets following Pierre ‘Major Major’ Gauthier`s dismissal of the goalie who had single-handedly brought us to the conference final that year.
At the time, it seemed like a bone-headed move. Halak had effectively stolen the No. 1 job from Carey Price who had a hellish season and then the Slovak netminder had quite literally stood on his head against Washington then Pittsburgh. Have a look at the tape of those games. The Habs beat the No. 1 team in the East and the Stanley Cup champs because Halak did his best impersonation of Ken Dryden. Or was it Patrick Roy.
But I’m a big enough boy to admit that ‘What Me Worry’ Price bounced back in no uncertain fashion last season and made Ghost Gauthier look like he knew what he was doing. (Subsequent events have, of course, confirmed that Gauthier only knows what he`s doing when he`s shopping in the vegetable aisle to maintain his strict vegan diet.)
And Halak has struggled. He had a decent season last year for the Blues, with 27 wins, 21 losses and a goals-against-average of 2.48. But he had one heckuva a rough start to this season, along with all of his team-mates I might add, going going 3-7-2. But he`s turned things around since Ken Hitchcock was brought in as coach.
He`s 5-0-3 in his last eight games and his save percentage for the season is now .911 and his GAA is 2.26. He’s 8-7-5 on the season.
As Jeremy Rutherford points out in his piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Halak has only allowed 15 goals on 221 shots during that eight-game streak, for a goals-against-average of 1.45 and a save percentage of .932. He hasn`t lost in regulation time since Nov. 22. Rutherford suggests Halak may be finally grabbing the top goaltending job in St. Louis.
Halak is set to start Thursday night against Edmonton. Halak’s goaltending rival Brian Elliott – who`s been battling all year for the No. 1 spot and has been doing some pretty amazing stuff – will likely start between the pipes Saturday against Colorado and Hitchcock is leaning toward using Halak on Tuesday in Montreal.
Me I like Halak. I have a soft spot for the guy and I’m convinced he’s gonna be – long-term – a very good NHL goalie. So let’s trade Price for Halak! Just kidding. Really, today, I’m just happy that Halak is doing good and Eller had an amazing night. Though I agree with Pierre ‘I’ve Got a Lot to Say’ McGuire on the Danish Kid – he’s never gonna be Guy Lafleur.
Here is just one of just dozens of amazing saves by Halak in the spring of 2010.