St. Louis Blues v Phoenix Coyotes

Wednesday Wake-Up Call: Jaroslav Halak

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The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!

Jaroslav Halak, G, St. Louis Blues

Key stats: 1-4-0, 3.47 GAA, .835 save percentage

Cap hit: $3.75 million annually

First, a disclaimer: Halak is a notoriously streaky netminder. Sure, he posted solid numbers last season — 27-21-7, 2.48 GAA, .910 save percentage, seven shutouts — but they didn’t accurately reflect his inconsistencies.

Halak was lights-out in October, below-average in November, solid in December, awful in January and February, solid in March and then lights-out again in April.

Don’t believe me? Check his monthly splits.

So yeah, it’s fair to suggest that Halak might turn things around without this wake-up call. But I digress…

Following Tuesday’s 5-0 loss in Los Angeles — a game where Halak was hooked after allowing four goals on 18 shots — the Slovakian netminder declined to comment on his performance. His coach, Davis Payne, offered up a terse “it’s hard to give you that reason” when asked why Halak played so poorly after a decent outing Sunday in Anaheim.

The Payne-Halak relationship should be closely monitored moving forward. At the end of last season, Jeremy Rutherford of STLtoday.com wrote the two were on the same page, but with a couple caveats. One, Payne wanted Halak to better deal with the mental grind of being a starter. Two, Payne stressed Halak needed a certain fitness level. “We feel that it’s going to be a real important year for him as far as strength and conditioning goes because of the workload that he will face,” Payne said. “Is he a 60-game guy, a 60-plus game guy? In order for him to hit that number or beyond, the body has to be ready for it, so this is a real important time for Jaro to take care of that as well.”

The X-Factor in all of this is what’s behind Halak right now. Brian Elliott was stellar in his lone start of the season (a 34-save victory over San Jose) but he’s not a starting-caliber netminder. The Blues have two young goaltending prospects in Peoria in Jake Allen and Ben Bishop, but neither seem ready for the NHL.

Regardless if he’s up to it or not, Halak will have to play 60-plus games this year. Mostly because there aren’t other viable alternatives.

So wake up, Jaroslav Halak. Your team needs you.

Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

Could there be more?

Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.

 

Jets’ Stafford to have disciplinary hearing after high-sticking Holden

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.

There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.

Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.