Rookie backup goalie Jaroslav Halak
will be between the pipes Wednesday night when the Montreal Canadiens
take the ice for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers
. The announcement was made by Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau
just two hours prior to opening faceoff.
Halak, who replaced rookie sensation Carey Price in the third period of Montreal’s 3-2 loss to the Flyers in Game 3 on Monday, will be making his first start in an NHL playoff game. The move by Carbonneau undoubtedly will send shock waves through Montreal. Halak had a 2-1-1 record, 2.11 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in six regular-season appearances.
Carbonneau obviously liked what he saw in Halak’s relief stint on Monday, when he made two saves in his 18:56 of work. Price, who was 5-5 with a 2.55 GAA and .907 save percentage in 10 playoff games, has struggled against the Flyers, who have targeted his glove hand throughout the first three contests. Against the Flyers in this series, Price has a 3.79 GAA and .853 save percentage.
"I spoke to certain people in the organization but at the end of the day it's still my decision," Carbonneau said. "It will be me who will be blamed one way or the other. I have to be conscious of the consequences. You have to look at all the factors when you make a decision like this. My decision is a solid one. And the reason why I made the decision is a solid one, too. I won't have any regrets."
Halak, a 23-year-old native of Slovakia, was a ninth-round pick (271st overall) by the Canadiens in the 2003 Entry Draft. He played in his first NHL game on Feb. 18, 2007, stopping 31 shots in a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but spent most of this season with Hamilton, the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate. Prior to being called up to the NHL on Feb. 15, Halak had a 2.00 goals-against average for the Bulldogs. He is the fourth Slovak-born goalie to play in the NHL.
Halak earned his first NHL shutout on March 20, making 30 saves in a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins, and also blanked the Bruins on April 2. He played for Team Slovakia in the 2007 World Championships. He was named the full-time backup to Price following the trade of Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals at the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
Material from wire services was used in this report.