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Halak's heroics reaching epic proportions

Friday, 05.14.2010 / 5:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

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Halak's heroics reaching epic proportions
After slaying another giant, Jaroslav Halak's legend continues to grow. Ice Age also looks at Sami Salo's courage under fire.
Josh Gorges was being a good teammate in the joyous aftermath of his Montreal Canadiens upsetting their second-straight foe in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Obviously you can't forget about Jaro and how special he's been playing right now," Gorges said. "I mean, he's been unreal. There's no other words to explain it."

Thanks Josh, but it's unlikely anyone is going to be forgetting Jaroslav Halak anytime soon. We mentioned in Ice Age a couple weeks back that the line to talk to the potential restricted free agent forms to the right. And at the moment, it stretches down the block.

Halak has a stupid .933 save percentage in the playoffs, and we mean "stupid" in the most complimentary of ways -- as in, no one does this. The funny thing about all this is the calmest guy in the room about Halak's goaltending is Halak.

"That's what I am there for," Halak told NHL.com's Corey Masisak. "I need to make some saves. I need to make some stops, something more than I should. I was there and guys were there for me, too. We scored more goals than they did."

OK, so he's not what they call in the trade "a great quote," but at this point, the Canadiens are more than happy to settle for "great goaltender."

Busy time -- With his San Jose Sharks facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, you already know that Sharks GM Doug Wilson is a busy man. But he is busier than you might suspect.

The San Jose Mercury News reported Wilson's daughter, Lacey, will compete Sunday in the Miss USA beauty pageant in Las Vegas as Miss Massachusetts, the day after his other daughter, Chelsea, graduates from USC.

The following weekend Wilson's son, Doug, graduates from Tufts University.

Ain't that the truth -- This is not your grandfather's NHL, according to a couple prominent NHL players.

"The No. 8 seed isn't what it used to be," Canadiens center Scott Gomez said after the Habs roared back from a 3-2 deficit to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champs. "We don't feel like these are such huge upsets."

The Penguins' Bill Guerin reluctantly agreed.

"I think it's just a credit to the League," Guerin said. "Any team can beat anybody on any night. In the playoffs in this League, (the No.) 1 (seed) is no better than (the) 8."

Well Said I -- "As a coach, you anticipate a plan for different scenarios, and I can safely say this is one I didn't anticipate or plan for." -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, after seeing Montreal build a 4-0 lead in Game 7.

End of the line -- It appears Chris Chelios, 48, may opt for retirement. According to the Chicago Tribune, Chelios is 99-percent sure he is going to call it quits after finishing the season with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, who were ousted from the Calder Cup Playoffs Tuesday.

"I'm 99-percent sure that I think that will end it as a career," Chelios said. "I don't know if it's the right time to say it, but it has been a great opportunity for me (to play hockey). Physically it has caught up. I always said I'd go out when there was nothing left in the tank and I think I'm there."

Chelios played nine games with the Atlanta Thrashers this season.

Can they play 8? -- You can't blame a guy for trying. San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan was asked what outcome he wanted to see between the Blackhawks and Canucks in the Western Conference Semifinals.

"Triple overtime every night would be ideal," he said.

McLellan's Sharks were resting, awaiting the winner, which turned out to be the Blackhawks.

"We don't control any of that," he said with a shrug. "What we do control is how we prepare. And when the League tells us that we're going to play, we'll play."

Smart Sharks -- Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg is a very smart player, and he noticed a lot of hockey smarts from the San Jose Sharks in their second-round series, which is high praise coming from a savvy player like Zetterberg.

"The Sharks have been a very good team the past few years and they play smart," Zetterberg said. "Every time you make the playoffs you learn more and more, and eventually you start playing better in the playoffs. They are playing smarter and they are playing more like a team."

Well Said II -- "We heard a lot of criticism. The team was put together by Bob (Gainey) last summer and all we heard was we were too small to make it through the regular season, not big enough to go far in the playoffs. This is a great feeling." -- Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri

Don't take this the wrong way -- Chances are some people are going to be a little miffed at Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo for this comment about losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games this season.

"I'm going to leave tonight with my head up. Unlike last year, I battled for 60 minutes and kept it under seven goals, so improvement was made."

Luongo wasn't being funny, he was being sarcastic, and those are two entirely different things.

Different paths -- Hal Gill and the rest of us travel in different circles, especially after Gill said this after flying from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and then on to Montreal a day after suffering a leg laceration against the Penguins.

"It was fun. It's always fun. Travel is fun," Gill said, hopefully being sarcastic, too.

That's good writing, Dickie -- One of the top leads to a story in this spring's playoff coverage goes to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for his story after the Pens' Game 7 loss to Montreal:

It is the kind of defeat the Penguins had not suffered in nearly two years.
The kind that leaves emotions raw and exposed.
Eyes, moist and red.
Dreams, dead and buried.
The kind that ends a season.


As Reg Dunlop told Dickie Dunn in "Slap Shot," "That's good writin' Dickie."

Political agenda -- Far be it from Ice Age to get into politics, but after U.S. Senator Harry Reid's (D-Nevada) comments to the Huffington Post this week, we can't resist.

In an interview Thursday, Reid answered a question about competition for the Majority Leader's position by saying, "I feel about them like I do the Stanley Cup. I could care less. Don't follow it."

Sort of like how closely we follow your career, Senator.

Well Said III -- "Hey, I didn't want it to go to Game 5." -- Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, after Boston's Game 6 loss in Philadelphia.

More Nick at night? -- After some horrendous predictions for the playoffs, yours truly is going to stay as far away as possible from calling what Nicklas Lidstrom might do next season.

Certainly the hope is "The Perfect Human" hangs around for at least another season.

Coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press he not only wants Lidstrom back in Detroit, but he expects it.

"I just think he'll be back," Babcock said. "I'm not one bit concerned about that. He's got too much good hockey left in him. I think if he believed we didn't have a chance to win he might be different. But I believe he's like the rest of us. We think we'll be right back knocking on the door."

Pavel Datsyuk agreed with his coach.

"I think Nick be playing, for sure," Datsyuk said. "How he play, he can play more -- he in good shape, he professional. I think he is top five best defensemen in League now."

For his part, Lidstrom is mulling it over, as he always does, and he said not to read too much into enrolling his son Kevin in a school in Sweden.

"It's something we had to do, just to make sure that we're covered on both ends," Lidstrom said Monday. "My oldest one, he had to -- if we're moving back, he had to have a place to go."

Lidstrom told the Detroit Free Press he hopes to make a decision by July 1, when free agency begins. Lidstrom said under any circumstance, his future will include hockey.

"Having kids involved in hockey and playing hockey, I'm sure I'd be involved with youth hockey somehow once I'm done playing," he said. "That's one of the things I'd like to do -- help out with kids."

No answers -- Sidney Crosby was blunt when asked to explain the Penguins' demise at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

"I don't have an answer," he said. But Crosby did say it was no one thing that sent the Pens home.

"Sometimes it was goaltending, sometimes they blocked shots, it wasn't a constant thing," Crosby said. "If it was, we would have found a way around it. It seemed like it was a different thing and they found different ways to keep it out of their net."

The Canadiens' Brian Gionta said it was a combination of all of the above.

"Defense, goaltending -- at the end of the day that's what's going to win you games," he said. "Josh (Gorges) and Hal (Gill) are doing a great job against their top guys and Jaro's doing a great job keeping us in games. The game plan is to make sure we take care of their big guns."

More unanswered questions -- The Vancouver Canucks came away from the Western Conference semis wondering how the Blackhawks managed 17 goals at GM Place.

Answers were not immediately forthcoming.

"I don't have an answer for that," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "This is a place we love to play."

"I don't know how they come in here and beat us like that," Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "We didn't get the job done at home, which is really surprising because we were one of the best home teams all year."

Here goes nothing -- Despite having been back and practicing hard for quite some time, goaltender Michael Leighton had to have had some butterflies in Game 5 against the Bruins when he saw Brian Boucher injured and coming out of the game for Philadelphia.

"I felt good," Leighton said of the first Stanley Cup Playoff action of his career. "The first few minutes, just knowing the situation, my knees were shaking a little bit. But it's just like any other game -- you're nervous for the first few seconds, knowing you're one mistake from them tying it up and then it's a different ballgame. I just had to make one or two routine stops when I went in and the team played well after that."

And after a strong effort in a Game 6 win, Leighton was feeling right at home in the postseason.

"I've played in playoffs before -- well, obviously, not in the NHL -- but I like playing playoff hockey. It gives you that extra adrenaline, that extra challenge."

Well Said IV -- "A buddy once said, 'Pressure's five kids, no job.' This is just fun. Game 7. Enjoy it. Drink it in." -- Bruins forward Shawn Thornton

A perfect fit -- After a couple disappointing seasons split between Ottawa and Carolina, Patrick Eaves appears to have found the perfect home in Detroit.

"I loved it here," Eaves told the Detroit Free Press. "I had a great year. It's a great place to be. The management is great, the coaching is great, but I'd have to say it's the leadership in the locker room. Kris Draper took me under his wing this year and I owe everything I did this year to him and all the older guys. They make you feel at ease, and they just let you do what you do out there."

A free agent, Eaves, who had 12 goals and 10 assists in 65 regular-season games, would like to remain in Detroit, and judging from comments from a veteran like Draper, the feeling is mutual.

"Eaver is a great person," Draper said. "He came in and was real excited to become a Detroit Red Wing. We played together a lot and I pretty well made it pretty clear: Any time, any thing, any situation you want to talk to about, I'm here for you. That's what I like to do."


Quote of the Day

It's such a privilege to be one of these 80 great players to do this milestone, and it doesn't get better than this doing it where I started. It means a lot to me. A big thanks goes to all the players tonight who helped me to achieve that and also all the players through my career.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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