When Jaroslav Halak came out of no where two years ago and led the Montreal Canadiens on a run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, everyone had high hopes of his future in the National Hockey League. Halak, who stood on his head and committed petty larceny every night on the ice, almost single handedly took the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers eventually won that series, but were then beaten in by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Those were the last miracle moments that Halak has had while on the ice in the NHL. After that season, the Blues acquired him from the Canadiens, and he was supposed to be one of the main links in the chain that helped the Blues get back to the playoffs, and hopefully on their way to the franchises first Stanley Cup Championship.
So far, Halak has not shown any of the brilliance that helped the Canadiens make a run at the cup two seasons ago. During that playoff run, Halak stole games for the Canadiens, and was the reason the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Halak hasn’t gone out and stolen any games for the Blues like he did the Canadiens in that playoff series, and to me, this is one of the reasons the team finished 10 games out of the playoffs last season.
The Blues have had a long list of goaltenders over the last two decades, and in the end, it has all come down to how the goalie played as to how far the team went into the playoffs. The best chance the Blues had at a Cup run was the year that Nick Kypreos dove into the legs of Grant Fuhr, ending his season, and the Blues hopes at advancing in the playoffs. Their back-up goalie was none other than Jon Casey. I am sure you all remember Casey, who I like to refer to as “Flopper.” He would flop down on the ice, and the opposing player would either skate around him or lift the puck over him and into the net. And don’t get me started on the triple overtime goal that Steve Yzerman, scored from the Blue line to eliminate the Blues from the Playoffs. Sure Yzerman had a great shot, but come on, if Casey would have lifted his glove instead of raising his shoulder, the game may still be going on today.
We had another great chance at a cup during the Blues President’s Trophy winning season of 1999-2000. Roman Turek was a monster during the regular season, and stopped everything the opposing teams threw at him. He won 42 games, had a .912 save percentage 7 shutouts and a 1.95 goals agains average. He was one of, if not the main reason that the Blues won the President’s Trophy that season. Yeah, it was nice to have Chris Pronger playing in front of you. I mean Pronger only won the Hart Trophy (League MVP), the Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) and lead the league is +/- Rating with a +52 rating, but still Turek stole games for the Blues, and we all had dreams of a parade down Market Street. Then the San Jose Sharks came into our house, Turek started letting in goals from Center Ice, and our dreams were dashed against the rocks, as the Blues lost in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blues then had another shot three years ago, when Chris Mason stood on his head the last two months of the regular season to help get the Blues into the playoffs, but again, our dreams were gone when the Blues were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks during the first round of the playoffs. Again, the goal that eliminated the Blues was a harmless shot from the sideboards, which Mason should have stopped in his sleep. The following season, Mason was not the same Mason, and the Blues missed the playoffs.
If the Blues are wanting to make any kind of run at the Playoffs or a Stanley Cup Championship, they need Halak to play like he did for the Canadiens two years ago. Halak has to go out on the ice, stand on his head to make saves, and be the goalie that put a team on his back in the playoffs, and took them as far as he could carry them. Halak cannot allow weak shots to get past him. If his defense is screening him on a play, then he needs to make sure he lets them know what they are doing wrong. If he can’t see the shooter, then he needs to tell his defenseman to get out of the way so he can. I know Halak cannot be perfect, no one is, but in order for this team to go deep into the playoffs, he is going to have to be more extraordinary, than ordinary. He is going to have to steal games, put up or Shut up, carry the load, or whatever cliche you want to throw out there. All I know is the fans in St. Louis deserve a Stanley Cup Championship. I just hope Halak has what it takes to lead us there.