MONTREAL - Starter? Backup? As long as he’s stopping the puck, Jaroslav Halak couldn’t care less about what label he’s given in Montreal.
Playing 34 games between the pipes for the Canadiens last season, Halak posted the kind of numbers other goalies can only salivate over. Of all netminders to play less than 41 games, the Bratislava, Slovakia native saw more shots than any of his padded counterparts across the league. Facing 31.68 shots per game, Halak edged out the Panthers’ Craig Anderson and the Lightning’s Mike Smith for the lead. Despite facing more than his share of vulcanized rubber throughout the year, though, the 24-year-old still ranked among the NHL’s best in save percentage. Stopping an average of 28.97 shots per game, Halak finished sixth among masked men who played over 10 games in 2008-09.
Bombarded with over 40 shots on a staggering five separate occasions, including a season-high 48 shots against both San Jose and New Jersey, Halak stood on his head for the Habs, stealing a few games in the process.
|Target practice |
Halak faced his share of action last season, placing among the league leaders in saves per game.
|Kari Lehtonen || ||29,65 |
|Tim Thomas |
| ||29,26 |
|Craig Anderson || ||29,13 |
|Joey MacDonald || ||29,12 |
|Tomas Vokoun || ||29,10 |
|Jaroslav Halak || ||28,97 |
|Mike Smith || ||28,63 |
|Dwayne Roloson || ||28,37 |
|Karri Ramo || ||28,17 |
Perhaps no one in Montreal was busier than No. 41 last winter, earning Player of the Month honors for February with his five wins, one shutout and sparkling 0.931 save percentage during the month. Nearing the final stretch of the campaign, Halak also posted four straight wins in late February, following up an earlier four-win stretch between January 4 and 10.
Of the 29 goalies drafted in 2003 and despite being chosen 271st overall, Halak sits second in NHL games played behind only newly-minted Stanley Cup champion and No. 1 pick Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins.
Like a handful of his teammates, Halak shouldn’t count on getting much of a breather during the Olympic break. On the inside track for the starting job in Vancouver for his native Slovakia and fresh off guarding his homeland’s crease at the World Championships this summer, Halak will likely battle it out with fellow countryman Peter Budaj
for the No. 1 spot in the Slovak net. No stranger to success on the world stage, Halak took home the silver medal for Slovakia at the 2003 Under-18 championships on his way to earning top goalie honors that year.
With the poise Halak showed in the Habs’ crease last season, look for him to see plenty more rubber for the Canadiens in 2009-10. Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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