Tremors II: NHL Playoff Aftershocks starring Jaroslav Halak and Alex Ovechkin

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IApril 19, 2010

WASHINGTON - APRIL 17: Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Montreal Canadiens defends the net against Eric Fehr #16 and David Steckel #39 of the Washington Capitals in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 17, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

posted by Rocket All Habs

Tremors, is this instance, does not refer to Graboids, those giant, carnivorous, underground worms who terrorize small-town America, of early-90s, horror-flick fame.

But the buzz about Jaroslav Halak's unsteady grip is just as silly as the franchise of campy B-movies with flesh-eating, oversized grubs.

Alex Ovechkin said during the game Saturday night he noticed Halak's hand was shaking while drinking water after Washington's first goal by Eric Fehr. Ovechkin said it was clear the Canadiens' goaltender was nervous.

The comments sent Habs' fans into a tizzy.

Where's the calming voice of Alex P. Keaton's dad when you need him? It's handy that Michael Gross also has experience with those nasty, tunneling earthworms with fangs.

I suggest that we chalk this one up to gamesmanship. The Russian superstar is learning how to be a captain of an NHL team. By focusing attention on Halak's jitters, Ovechkin deflected attention away from the Capitals dicey goaltending situation.

Well done Alex.

But Habs' fans should remember it was Ovechkin himself who admittedly had a case of the nerves in Game One. When Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was asked how to calm his captain, he replied, "Give him a massage, I don’t know.”

If Halak was indeed nervous in this series, should it be a surprise? He is an under-the-radar goaltender who was vaulted into the starting position after the Olympic break. Until now, Halak has benefited from the cover provided by the focus and criticism heaped on Carey Price.

We have to remember that Halak doesn't have a wealth of big-game experience.

Rather than focus on Halak's so-called trembling to determine his mindset during the game, one only has to look at the breakdown in his technique. I think it's fair to say he was rattled by the Capital's strategy to crash the crease, and that had more to do with him giving up a couple of soft goals than any nerves.

Whether Halak was suffering from stress, fatigue or a lack of size, the Canadiens have to do a better job protecting their goaltender. It won't be easy given Jacques Martin's puzzling decision to sit Ryan O'Byrne, but it is reality. If the coaching staff sees fit to give Marc-Andre Bergeron 20 minutes of ice-time, he, too, will have to channel his inner Francis Bouillon and clear the crease.

That being said, would you be surprised if Halak, Ovechkin, and Semyon Varlamov had a small case of the nerves tonight when the puck drops at the Bell Centre?

I know I will.