Jaroslav Halak isn’t good enough to win a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues. That seems to a thought that’s been permeating throughout the fanbase since head coach Ken Hitchcock rolled with Brian Elliott last year in the Western Conference quarterfinal against the Los Angeles Kings.
For the second time in as many seasons, Elliott couldn’t hang with Jonathan Quick, and for the second time in as many seasons, the Blues were eliminated by L.A. So it’s clear that he’s not the guy moving forward, and St. Louis seems to be fine with that. For some reason though, no one believes that Halak can get the job done either.
This is strange to me because he’s played all of two playoff games for the Blues since he was traded to the team following the 2009-10 season. Has everyone forgotten what made Halak such a valued trade chip for the Montreal Canadiens in the first place?
Let me jog that memory a bit.
While that might look like a string of saves across multiple weeks of action, that’s Halak in Game 6 against the Washington Capitals. He made 53 saves that night, and in case you think he got lucky or something, Montreal would disagree with you.
It’s not like Canadiens fans are easy to please or unintelligent. We’re talking about a fanbase that chants in favor of players during ongoing contract negotiations in a preseason scrimmage game. That’d be akin to Blues fans chanting “We Want Alex!” for a minute straight when Doug Armstrong was still ironing out a deal with Alex Pietrangelo.
Halak was incredible for Montreal during that playoff run. That’s why he’s in St. Louis now. Since carrying the Canadiens on his back that year, he’s yet to be given a legitimate chance to be the Blues No. 1 guy in the postseason. He’s played all of two playoff games as a member of this team, and fans treat him like he’s burned the team out of a Stanley Cup for four straight seasons ala Marc-Andre Fleury.
He hasn’t. The Blues haven’t even given Halak a chance to show what he can do in the postseason, yet a lot of folks seem to be in support of making a trade for Ryan Miller.
When’s the last time a Stanley Cup-winning team did so win a rental goalie? I don’t have a stats guy, but I strain to think of even one instance of a competitive team making a deal to replace their starting goaltender with less than a quarter of a season to go. Except for Patrick Roy in 1995-96, but he’s a mutant so he doesn’t count.
Normal teams with good goalies don’t make deals like that, and neither should the Blues. Halak is in his fourth season as the starter for the team and he’s only seen the playoffs for 120 minutes. (He posted a .935 save percentage in those two contests, for what it’s worth.)
All told, Halak has suited up for the Blues and played in 158 times in the regular season. He’s lost 46 of those games, with 21 of those defeats coming in his first year in St. Louis. Over the last three years he’s only lost 25 times.
25 losses over three seasons doesn’t seem half bad—in fact, it seems pretty damn remarkable.
For some reason, some Blues fans don’t want to see him keep the starting job in the playoffs this year despite the fact that Halak has been a regular season success and good in the postseason when given a chance. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there’s some secret that I don’t know.
The numbers that I have in front of me suggest that Halak should at least be given the chance to show that he’s a big-game goalie. All the evidence points to him being exactly that, while an odd mob mentality seems to be driving fans to call a trade for no reason whatsoever.
I’m not saying that Halak will definitely, without a doubt, crush it for the Blues in the postseason. All I am saying is that he should at least be given one chance before fans call for his head.
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