In Jaroslav Halak’s mind, the game is always on the line.
That’s how Halak approaches every shot, as if he were in sudden death. Though it sounds like a stressful way to approach a job, it’s working for the Islanders goaltender, who earned his third shutout of the season – a 1-0 shootout win – Monday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I take it one shot at a time,” Halak said. “I never try to think too far ahead, or think this is the night. I try to approach every shot like it’s OT. It worked last night, but the guys made it easy on me.”
Halak turned aside all 21 shots the Flyers threw at him on Monday night and after Tuesday’s practice, he deflected the praise away from himself.
“A shutout or a win is a team effort,” Halak said. “Everybody is pulling the same rope, playing hard and smart. Everybody is doing their job. When a team plays well, it always looks good as individuals.”
While the Islanders’ tight defensive play limited the Flyers to 21 shots, Halak made their jobs easier by holding onto pucks. Halak’s rebound control was textbook, as he used good positioning to take pucks to the gut, chest and shoulders and all but limit the Flyers’ second and third opportunities. Any momentum they may have generated was snuffed out when Halak covered the puck. It’s that positioning that allows him to get the most out of his 5’11, 186 lbs. frame.
“He’s a consistent goalie, with his positioning, his footwork, he’s always in the areas he needs to be,” Islanders backup Chad Johnson said. “He’s playing well and everyone’s gelling together. You can see that cohesiveness between the defensemen and the goaltender and the whole team defensively.”
While the Slovakian goaltender is sidestepping the limelight, the attention is deserved. After a 3-3 start to his Islanders career, Halak has settled in, is relaxed and is delivering solid performances night in and night out. He’s won seven straight and has three shutouts in his last six. He’s the first Islanders goalie to win seven in a row since 2006 and is one game shy of matching a personal record.
But none of that concerns Halak. In his mind, overtime is omnipresent and the next shot is coming.
De Haan and Hickey Healthy
Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey were back on the ice at Tuesday’s practice. The Islanders defensemen missed last night’s game due to illnesses, but Head Coach Jack Capuano said both players felt good today.
Boychuk “Maintenance Day”
Johnny Boychuk took a “maintenance day” according to Capuano and did not skate with his Islanders teammates.
“Everybody has bumps a bruises,” Capuano said. “We just gave him a day to heal up a little bit. Right now, I don’t have any concern.”