Friday, June 27, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Jaroslav Halak

The numbers

6 GP: 2 W, 1 L, 1 OTL, 2.11 GAA, .934 Save%, 1 SO

Career best year – 2006-07
16 GP: 10 W, 6 L, 0 OTL, 2.89 GAA, .906 Save%, 2 SO

2007-08 playoffs
2 GP: 0 W, 1 L, 2.34 GAA, .889 Save%, 0 SO

Career best playoffs
Rookie (same as above)

Plays of the game: 1

Game pucks: 2

Domes: 17

3 Star selections: 2 First

The story

Where he started the season
He didn't even stand a chance of making the team this year off the bat as management wanted Price in, no matter what. Gainey had made up his mind in 2005 that Price was our goalie of the future – and that meant he would be in the NHL in 2007. With a proven #1 (and All-Star) in Huet already there too, Halak's case was hopeless. What Price had done the year before with Team Canada and Hamilton was very impressive, but Halak had been equally as impressive in the AHL and the NHL as he put up very good numbers. Halak took his demotion like a man (eventually) and continued to put up stellar numbers on the farm. He knew very well that Huet was likely a one year obstacle and it would soon enough be Jaro vs. Carey for the Habs long-term #1 apot.

The season
Halak finally got his chance to play in Montreal in January when the weight of a city proved to be too much for young Price to handle. He had a brief call-up in December that lasted 20 minutes while Huet was hurt, but now this was for real, they were choosing him instead of Price. Well, they in fact chose neither as Huet played almost all the games while Price was down. Halak again only saw one period of action, this time in relief for Huet. Little did Jaro know, but his call-up wasn't a reward for his great play, it was a chance for Price to get some confidence back and soon enough Carey was back up and Halak was back to tending the Bulldogs' cage. After Huet was traded for nothing Halak finally got the permanent call-up he had earned at least a year earlier. This time he would see some action, 4 full games to be precise. He did well in his 4 games as he only let in 9 goals and recorded a shutout. It was obvious, however, that the team wanted Price (despite Halak's superior numbers) as their #1 and come playoff time Caery was the one who would lead the way. Again the pressure got to Carey in the playoffs and again Halak was given his shot, this time, however, Jaro wasn't able to deliver a win in Philly so it was decided we would let the good Habs ship sink with Carey at the helm.

Highlights: Halak doing what he does for a minute. Less time than other highlight reels, but this song (while I'm certain it might find popularity in Eastern Europe) couldn't end soon enough for me.

Halak by the numbers:

Lions' links on Halak:
Halak of respect?
Does three goalies constitute depth?
Halak shoulld start; Lemieux should sit
Locke and Halak given their chance
What's right for Price?
Disappointing News for Halak
Well Done Jaroslav

Grade: B-
I can't think of much more that Halak could have done in the regular season. He did what he was told and never complained. Back and forth to Hamilton he went as the team tried desperately to sort Price out. Halak proved in his starts towards the end of the year that he can be a #1 and that maybe, just maybe, he should be given consideration as the Habs #1. His play in the playoffs (1 1/3 games worth) wasn't too awe inspiring, but with the team unable to capitalize in front of him it surely wasn't entirely his fault. If anything, this season showed me that we have a mature, able, NHL calibre goalie in our midst and we should be very careful not to let him go. If Price turns out to be Jim Carey or Cam Ward then we will all be a lot happier knowing that we have Halak on board to steer the ship right again.

Where we'd have him next season
The one area that Gainey does not have to evaluate this summer is goaltending. Halak is set to become a restricted free-agent, so there is some concern there, but in theory we should have no hesitation in signing him. It is hard to tell what the goalie situation will be like in Montreal come next Spring, but I am pretty confident that one of either Price or Halak (hopefully both) will rise up and give us a legitimate keeper that we won't have to worry about. All Halak has to do now is continue to do what he has always done. He has to work hard, keep a good attitude and continue to perform on the ice. If he does all that he will be a #1 (or #1b) goalie in this league and hoepfully it will be with a big CH on his chest.

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