"HA-LAK! HA-LAK! HA-LAK!"
These were the cheers of overbearing adoration that resonated through the province of Quebec this past spring. Jaroslav Halak, the latest in a long line of Montreal Canadiens playoff heroes in the crease, reached idol status in La Belle Province through his heroic performance in the 2010 postseason.
At a charity event in Montreal, although at that point no longer a member of the Canadiens organization, thousands of fans showed up to have their memorabilia signed by the playoff hero. This outpouring of fans was, in a sense, a microcosm of the opinion of Habs fans on who should have remained to guard the nets in Montreal.
Halak remains a celebrated figure, yet the fact of the matter is that he no longer wears the bleu, blanc, et rouge.
No one has felt the impact of this departure as much as "the guy they kept instead of Halak": Carey Price.
In his first preseason outing against the Boston Bruins at home, Price was booed off the ice due to a shoddy performance, while receiving mocking cheers for routine saves throughout the game. Not exactly how he would have liked to have begun the post-Halak era, yet this attitude from the fans was to be expected.
To be loved in Montreal, it is imperative that a goaltender play well, if not exceedingly well, as Jaroslav Halak did.
Yet, there have been other goalies who gave performances that were on the same level as Halak's. Names such as Patrick Roy, Jose Theodore, and even Cristobal Huet come to mind.
And where are the memories of these performances in the minds of fans now?
They have been replaced, to put it simply.
While all of the aforementioned goaltenders gave fans something to remember, all their achievements seem so far away, as they can always be replaced, which is exactly what Halak did this postseason.
In Montreal, the attitude is always, "What are you doing for me now?" The past is largely irrelevant. Just ask Roy, Theodore, or Huet. The minute a goaltender's play slips, his days are numbered.
However, Carey Price has been spared the axe so far, though it would be of no surprise if it would were he to have a disastrous season.
If history is any indicator though, if Price is to find a way to carry the Canadiens into the playoffs this season and then pull off an upset or two, Halak would seem a distant memory to Habs fans.
Take the Canadiens win over Pittsburgh this weekend.
In a 36-save effort, Price allowed his team to win a game they didn't deserve.
After the game, Michel Bergeron on the talk-show L'Antichambre proclaimed, "Carey Price, c'est reglé," meaning that all was solved for Price.
That is how quickly opinions can change in Montreal, and a strong season from the Canadiens now undisputed starting goaltender could do much more than change opinions; it could erase memories.