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.

WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

 

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

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Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per the screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.