Jaroslav Halak: Behind the Wall

Chris JennerCorrespondent IMay 4, 2010

PITTSBURGH - MAY 2:  Goaltender Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Montreal Canadiens makes a save in the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 2, 2010 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Many people, including myself, have questioned Jaroslav Halak's goaltending.

While it is popular consensus that he goes down too early and has trouble controlling rebounds, it is a fact that more often than not, he stops the puck.

Halak recently backstopped the Montreal Canadiens to an incredible come from behind series win against the first place Capitals in round one.

What was particularly amazing was that Halak could have, and probably should have, lost all his confidence after an abysmal performance in Game Two and another poor showing in Game Three before getting the hook.

A short phase of hockey that sees a goaltender give up five goals in a span of 22 minutes, and eight goals over a 30-shot period, is often enough to drain a goaltender of any confidence he might have.

But not Halak. After sitting out Game Four of the series against the Capitals, Halak was given a chance to redeem himself with his team trailing 3-1 in the series, and did he ever. The next three games, Halak surrendered only a single goal in each, while stopping an incredible 131 shots out of the 134 that he faced, including his memorable 53-save performance in front of a raucous home crowd.

With the next series shifting to Pittsburgh, Halak had trouble finding his groove in Game One. He let in five goals on only 20 shots and seemed out of sorts, going down early, not playing his angles, and hugging his goal line. He was pulled midway through the third period.

Game Two was less than five minutes old when Pittsburgh took the lead with an early goal and looked poised to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. But it was Halak who was poised. He again showed his resilience, stopping every shot from that point on, helping the Habs to a 3-1 victory that saw him stop 38 shots when all was said and done.

The jury is still out on Halak's long-term success in the NHL, but what is certain for now is that Halak is showing the type of mental state and inspired play that is necessary for any team to make a deep playoff run. Without this type of goaltending, his team would already be on the golf course.