Bring back Halak! Now!

Posted: January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized
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When I last blogged about Jaroslav Halak and his amazing turnaround – that was back on Jan. 5 – he was doing very good – he was 5-0-3 in his last eight games and had a save percentage for the season at that point of .911 and a goals-against-average of 2.26.

But those numbers are downright cruddy compared to what my favourite Slovakian netminder is posting on the stats web sites today. Right now, the former Habs hero is 10-0-3 in his last 13 games following a 1-0 shutout over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night, his second straight shut-out and his fourth shutout of the season. The last time he lost in regulation time was Nov. 22. The sound you hear is Habs fans salivating – or is it crying?

During his last 13 games, he has a .941 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against-average. Astonishing. Especially when you think how bad he looked in the early going of the season. Geez, if the Habs goalie was posting those kinds of numbers, the Hab-nots might even have won some games. Nah! Not really. I forgot you have to score goals to win games! (I know, a bit below the belt, but true nonetheless!)

Halak – who was traded from the Canadiens to the Blues in the summer of 2010 – had a horrific start to this season, going 1-6 in his first seven starts and very nearly conceding the top job to Brian Elliott, who responded with some just astounding play. Elliott’s record is none-too-shabby too – he’s 15-5-1 with a GAA of 1.68, which is why he’s going to the All-Star game.

“I had to refresh and start over,” Halak said, in a FoxSports piece. “It was a really bad start for me. It was like a bad dream for me, but I had to put it aside and forget about what happened and start fresh, start over. That’s what I did.”

That resurgence included shutting out his old team Jan. 10 in his first game at the Bell Centre since being dealt by Pierre ‘Major Major’ Gauthier immediately following his heroics in the 2010 playoffs. That would be the game RDS did everything they could not to show the warm welcome he received from Habs – not airing the moment he stepped on the ice, nor when he left the ice saluting the fans, and – just to rub it in – not showing when he was named first star. Petty, petty, petty, and it had many wondering if Habs management had placed a call to RDS to tell them to play-down the triumphant Halak return. I’d say that’s entirely possible.

Last year, Carey Price was on the up-and-up and Halak wasn’t All-Star material and, a year ago, the Halak trade didn’t look nearly as bad as it did when it first went down. But this year, Price’s numbers are much worse than Halak’s – Price is 15-17-8, with a GAA of 2.45 and a save percentage of .912. So was it a good trade?

Many of us think if Halak had to be traded – a big if in of itself – then Gauthier should’ve waited, let all the GMs know Halak was on the market, and got the best talent possible for the ultra-hot goalie who was coming off a near-miraculous playoff run. Instead Ghost Gauthier dealt him quickly to St. Louis, for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz (eds. note: Who dat?). I like Eller but let’s face it, he’s no Guy Lafleur, with only nine goals so far this season. Surely you coulda got more for Halak. Or you coulda kept him, for that matter. (Trading too quickly, in a panic, without talking to all the teams. Hmmm that sounds a lot like the Cammalleri trade too, come to think of it.)

But Price has always been Gauthier/Gainey’s man. The thoroughbred. And they never believed in Jaro. Famously during the 2009-2010 season, Bob ‘Elvis Has Not Left the Building’ Gainey dangled Halak in front of Phillie and they were nuts enough not to pick him up.

I used to joke that we should trade Price to get Halak back. But obviously the Blues wouldn’t even consider that one at this point.


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