The Montreal Canadiens fans are currently being swept up in Halak fever. It is a very similar strain to Huet fever, and Theodore fever, which they suffered from a few years ago.
Halak is coming off a 1-0 shutout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, in which he mad 35 saves. It was also on the road. How can I write a piece that is denying Halak's greatness after a performance like this? It is precisely because Halak is at the height of his game that I will point out it's flaws. It's easy for someone to say I told you so after fact.
While Jaroslav Halak's numbers cannot be argued, the longevity of his ability to put them up can. Halak is a small goalie, that has great lateral movement, and bad rebound control. His style tends to depend on his ability to get across the net in time to cover up the rebounds that he consistently spills with his pads. Many goalies before him have had the same problem, and few have lasted. Jim Carey, and Tim Thomas, two former Vezina winners come to mind. Carey disappeared from the NHL at an unbelievable speed, while Tim Thomas has been relegated to the bench for much of the year, right after Boston threw a hefty contract his way.
Halak is going into a contract year, as is his teammate Carey Price. While there can be no denying that Halak is in better form right now, if the Habs throw a large contract to Halak and let Price go, they will set their franchise back a decade. Price has all the intangibles to become an elite goaltender. He has size, technique and rebound control, as well as the ability to run a hot streak. He is two years younger than Halak, however, and still needs some time to develop.
Halak has had some success against good teams, his recent shutout against Philly being the prime example. But out of his 25 wins this season, that was the eight against a playoff bound team. He has never played more than 34 games in a regular season until this year, and has never won a playoff game.
Against New Jersey, in a recent 3-2 loss, Jamie Langenbrunner took a rebound from a point shot that Halak should have easily directed into the corner, and one timed the puck past Halak. The reason Langenbrunner beat him was because the rebound was directed right into the front of the net, and Halak could not get set in time to stop it. The game against Philadelphia before the Olympic break was a prime example of a problem that will crop up for Halak the more he plays.
Halak was chased from the net in the second period after allowing 5 goals on 17 shots, most of which came off of rebounds that he spilled in front of goal. I realize that Halak has just shut out the Flyers recently, but which one is the real Halak?
Neither, in my opinion. It lies somewhere in between. Halak can be a solid NHL goalie, but he will not have longevity as a great goalie in this league. Hab fans have seen it before, with the likes of Jose Theodore, who had one spectacular season, as well as Cristobal Huet, who's play slowly declined year after year from his one great season with the Habs.
Halak may be good, but if the Canadiens sacrifice Carey Price to send more money Halak's way in a long term, multi million dollar a year contract, they will be very sorry a few years down the road.