If Jaroslav Halak was hoping that his eventual trade to the Washington Capitals would give him a clean slate, he’s certainly not doing any favors right now. The knock against the netminder during his days as a St. Louis Blue was that he wasn’t a mentally tough competitor.
That reputation seemed cemented when Halak had a meltdown in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics, allowing the Slovaks to get embarrassed and blown out of the tourney. The mental toughness argument seemingly gained steam today, as Washington head coach Adam Oates revealed that Halak asked to not start against his former team.
Oates said Halak told coaches he wasn’t completely comfortable facing Blues for the first time since the trade, so they’re going with Holtby
— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) April 8, 2014
The Capitals are literally playing for their postseason lives. That was the case when they went out and traded for Halak, and they hoped that his presence would push the team into the wild card race in the Eastern Conference. That hasn’t happened to this point, but it’s alarming to see the goalie back out of a must-win game simply because it’s a game against his old team.
What’s stranger is that Halak seemed to be all for it in the days leading up to the contest. Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com quoted the ex-Blue yesterday, and he had this to say about starting against his old team:
Obviously, I wasn’t happy when I got traded… I played there four years, I know these guys. We’ll see. Obviously, I’m looking forward to going back there.
He might be looking forward to getting back to St. Louis, but he’s apparently only capable of sitting on the bench as he watches the Capitals try to take a must-win contest on the road with Braden Holtby in net. For a goalie that has had question marks surrounding his mental toughness over the last few seasons, the Blues might have just seen the most telling thing of all.