Jaroslav Halak has been great in the Montreal nets for the last few years and his performance during these playoffs has been unmatched. Canadien's history and playoff success have both been going on for more then a century. It make's it hard to place his performance in an historical context . Mike Cammalleri has said it already, the job is only half done. Les habitants lose in the next round and Halak's stellar performance might get remembered with that of Steve Penney's back in the 84 and 85 playoffs. Let's assume that's not the case. Let's assume Halak plays like this right to the end of the Stanley Cup Finals. Where would this amazing performance rank among the other great goaltending exhibitions in Montreal Canadien Stanley Cup history?
Players flooded back to the NHL after the end of WWII. The ambidexterous Durnan went 8-1 to win the Stanley Cup in 1946. His Canadiens swept the Chicago Blackhawks with their famed Pony line of Bill Mosienko and Max and Doug Bentley. He went on to out-duel the Bruins and their little goalie Frank "Mr Zero" Brimsek in the Stanley Cup finals, four game to one.
You know you're in deep water when your playoff performance may be compared to that of the goalie who the Vezina trophy is named after. Before there was an NHL George Vezina played for the Montreal Canadiens of the NHA (National Hockey Association), one of the leagues that challenged for the Stanley Cup. As league champions the Canadiens faced off against the Pacific Hockey Coast champions, the Portland Rosebuds, the first american team to challange for the Stanley Cup. Vezina gave up 13 goals in the best of five series that the Canadiens won three games to two. Vezina was outstanding through-out the series and instrumental especially in the game five 2-1 win.
Gump Worsley was a player whose fame at the time was based on the quantity of shots he'd stopped with bad Ranger teams in the early sixties and late fifties. He'd come to Montreal traded for the legendary but troublesome Jacques Plante. Unfortunately injuries saw him relegated to the Quebec Aces of the AHL for a year and a half. Worsley played himself back into the line-up. He won the starting job from Charlie Hodge in the last half of 1965. He won the first series versus Toronto in six. He played the first two games of the finals versus Chicago winning both games in Montreal including a 2-0 shut-out in the second game. He pulled a hamstring in game three and was replaced by Hodge. The injured Worlsey came back to play game seven for the Canadiens. He won the series over the Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita lead Blackhawks with a 4-0 shut-out in game seven with a bad hamstring. Worsley won the cup and never returned to the minors again.
Jacques Plante and the Canadiens displaced the Red Wings from first place in the regular season, a position they'd held for seven years in a row. Come playoff time Plante was 8-2 with 2 shut-outs and a 1.80 GAA. The Canadiens beat the Rangers and then the Red Wings 4 games to 1. This was the beginning of five straight Stanley Cups for the Montreal Canadiens in the last half of the fifties.
Jaroslav Halak has faced 489 shots in 14 games so far these play-offs. He's maintained a .934 save percentage and 2.42 goals against average in the face of that. He's already faced and beaten the best offensive team in the regular season this year and the former Stanley cup champions. Another two rounds like these first two and Halak will have managed one of the greatest Canadien's playoff performances of all time.
The Montreal Canadien's opened up the playoffs in 1983 year with a series versus the Quebec Nordiques. This was to be the only series they played this year versus a team that had a better regular season record than they had. It was their toughest series which they won in six. They lost the first game in overtime to Quebec and didn't lose another overtime game for the rest of the playoffs. They beat Quebec twice in overtime. They swept Buffalo but had to win three of those games in overtime. They took the Islanders in five including two more overtime wins. Patrick Roy simply refused to be beaten in extra time. The Canadiens finished Wayne Gretzky and LA Kings off in five. Three of those wins were in overtime. Patrick managed a .929 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average while winning the Conn Smythe trophy. He played 1293 minutes in his 20 games that year. He played an extra game and a half of overtime to get through that playoff year and gave up only one goal in all that time.
Plante came in to the playoffs in 1960 behind a team that had won four cups in a row. This year however he was wearing a face mask. He'd been injured in November and insisted he wouldn't play unless allowed to wear a face mask of his own design. He was fighting his hall of fame coach, Toe Blake, team-mates, and the fans, all who feared he was making the team and himself look weak by wearing protection. Plante and the Habs swept their two playoff opponents Chicago featuring Bobby Hull and Toronto featuring Frank Mahovlich. He had three shut-outs and a 1.35 GAA and forever put to bed the fear that a goalie wearing a mask couldn't win important games.
The Montreal Canadiens had tried a young goalie in the playoffs the two previous years when they had Steve Penney in nets. This year they decided to try another rookie goalie in Patrick Roy. The 20 year old Roy became the youngest player ever to win the Conn Smythe trophy. He was 15-5 with a 1.92 GAA and .923 save percentage. The Habs and Roy swept the Bruins in a best of five series. They then had a back and forth series with a Ronnie Francis lead Hartford Whaler team that had the habs winning the seventh game 2-1 in overtime as Roy outdueled another young up and coming goalie, Mike Liut. After Hartford the Canadiens seemed to cruise beating the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames in five games each.
Hainsworth was the player who replaced the legendary George Vezina in Montreal. He also won the first three trophies awarded in Vezina's honour. The stockmarket had crashed mere months before when the 1930 playoffs began. Montreal won a total goal series 3-2 versus the Chicago Blackhawks. They then beat the Rangers two game to nothing in the semi final. The Bruins were next and were again swept two games to none. Hainsworth gave up six goals in six playoff games that year and also set the record for the longest shut-out streak in playoff history of 270 minutes and eight seconds. The record still stands today.
The Bruins were the defending Stanley Cup champions. They were the highest scoring team in hockey history in a season by more then a hundred goals.This was to be their year and their decade. Instead a gangly kid from Cornell University was put in nets after playing only six regular season games. This on a Montreal team that had missed the playoffs the year before. Dryden somehow stymied and frustrated the Bruins. After their impossible victory over Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito and the Bruins the Canadiens almost faltered against the expansion Minnesota North Stars in the end beating them in six. Then it was up to Dryden to lead the habs past the power house Chicago Blackhawks and Bobby Hull in another tightly contested seven game series. Dryden and his habs seemed woefully overmatched and yet beat all comers. I haven't seen anything comparable until Jaroslav Halak came along with this years version of the Montreal Canadiens.