MONTREAL -- The secret is out about Jaroslav Halak, and not just in Montreal.
Sure, the hype of the Olympics is dying down, but the shockwaves from Halak’s one-man show for Slovakia continue to be felt. Passing through the Bell Centre with the Lightning this week, defenseman Andrej Meszaros is still blown away about how the Habs netminder almost led their country to the podium in Vancouver.
“He was awesome for us. We never would have gotten as far as we did without Jaro,” said Meszaros. “No one gave us much of a chance, but we all believed in what we could do. We fed off the momentum Jaro gave us and we took it from there.”
Halak and Meszaros may have come up just short of winning a medal by finishing fourth, but their improbable tournament run was nothing new to the longtime friends.
“Jaro and I go all the way back to when we were teenagers growing up in Slovakia. We played in the 2003 Under-18 World Championships when we won silver together by beating Russia,” recalled the Tampa defenseman of their huge upset over Alex Ovechkin and Co. “There were actually a few of us on that team that were also at the Olympics in Vancouver. It was funny to all be together again. Time really flies.”
Even seven years later, Meszaros wasn’t surprised to see how his fellow countryman has remained true to himself.
“He’s always just been… well, Jaro. He’s a low-key, simple guy who gets the job done. He keeps to himself but most goalies are like that,” said Meszaros, who was roommates with Halak in Vancouver. “He’s got his superstitions, but nothing too extreme. I just noticed him doing a lot of the same things before each game.”
Battling with his buddy for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference while Halak continues to fight for ownership of the Habs’ crease, Meszaros isn’t at all concerned about what’s in store for the restricted free agent to be.
“I think he’s proven what he can do all season long and the Olympics just sealed it for him,” affirmed Meszaros. “I definitely believe he has what it takes to be a No. 1 goalie in this league. And on top of that, he’s the kind of guy you can’t help but root for.” Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com See also:The playoff raceBulldogs Report – March 10, 2010 Go time for Gomez Halak earns Molson Cup for January/February