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Under Pressure: Jaroslav Halak

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the St. Louis Blues, we pick…goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Over the past two seasons, St. Louis has been content with the one-two goalie punch of Halak and Brian Elliott. For the most part, it’s served the team well — Halak and Elliott combined to win the Jennings in 2011-12 for fewest goals allowed and have backstopped the Blues to consecutive playoff appearances.

But is appears the timeshare is over.

As per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Halak will head into this season as the club’s No. 1:

The Blues believe Jaroslav Halak has to be their man. Gone in St. Louis is the politically correct spin that the Blues have two capable netminders and both will battle for starts.

The Blues have made a collective, organizational decision that this season is Halak’s to win or lose. They’re handing him the keys, perhaps for the last time, being that Halak is a UFA after the season.

Halak rededicated himself in the offseason, staying in St. Louis to focus on his workouts instead of going home overseas, and showing up to camp dropping his body fat from 14 percent to 8 percent.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

While Elliott’s been a nice story — arriving on a two-way deal barely above the league minimum, playing himself onto the 2012 All-Star team — Halak was always thought to be the No. 1, partly because of what St. Louis gave up to get him (Lars Eller, Ian Schultz) and partly because of what it paid him ($15 million over four years).

Oh, speaking of that contract…

As LeBrun mentioned, it expires at the end of this season, another reason why Halak’s under immense pressure. At 28, he’s still yet to establish himself as a bell cow-type netminder, one that can log an extensive workload and withstand its rigors.

(Plagued by hand and groin injuries, Halak’s never appeared in more than 57 games in a single season; what’s more, since his lone “bell cow” performance — literally carrying Montreal to the 2010 Eastern Conference finals — he’s won exactly one playoff game.)

So Halak’s auditioning for the No. 1 gig, playing for a new deal and, let’s be honest, shouldering a large portion of St. Louis’ expectations.

The Blues spent over $100 million this summer securing the services of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund and Jordan Leopold, a sign they believe their core group is ready to compete for a Cup.

(Editor’s note: Some have noticed we also did an Under Pressure: Alex Pietrangelo earlier this week, which begs the question — why two Blues? Well hey, there’s a lot of pressure in St. Louis this year. Also, the duplicate has nothing to do with a possible snafu in PHT’s editorial schedule that might’ve had two different authors covering the same team. Nope, that definitely did not happen. We hope you’re enjoying the series and are looking forward to next week’s Under Pressure: Barret Jackman.)

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Crosby lands last blow in Penguins’ absurd 8-7 OT win against Capitals

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 04:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins handles the puck in front of Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Leave it to number 87 to win an 8-7 hockey game.

Evgeni Malkin grabbed a hat trick during that patently absurd second period, yet it was Sidney Crosby who scored the overtime game-winner as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Washington Capitals on Monday night.

With that, the Penguins’ three-game losing streak ends (as does Washington’s nine-game winning run). The Caps at least got a standings point out of the deal, which seems pretty fair when you consider the fact that they scored a touchdown and extra point’s worth of goals in this one.

(Yes, there were NFL jokes on Twitter.)

Malkin’s hat trick goal and Crosby’s overtime-winner both demanded some official reviews, but both also stood. Capitals fans are probably upset with this game, especially since you could make a legitimate argument that T.J. Oshie should’ve drawn … you, know, at least one penalty:

Instead, you could argue that Patric Hornqvist‘s hit on Oshie ended up being a turning point of the game, although you could also argue that even M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t keep up with all of the twists.

Roberto Luongo captured the mood of the three goalies involved (Braden Holtby got the hook after allowing five goals over a zany 8:09 span) and likely the coaches, too:

It was a messy, unpredictable, staggering and likely controversial game.

Normally, one might say that this is just what you’d expect from a Capitals – Penguins contest. Can anyone really argue they expected this explosion, though?

Do yourself a favor and watch the highlights, as there were so many exciting moments and goals that it’s difficult to summarize them all in one recap. Heck, if you just watch the highlights of the night for Crosby and Malkin, you’re likely to be highly entertained.

Just about everything happened in second period of Capitals – Penguins

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Let’s just take a second to step back and rub our eyes in disbelief at this Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins game, particularly the just-passed second period.

Basically everything is happening.

Evgeni Malkin is now at 21 goals on the season as he generated a hat trick in the middle frame. That third goal will be highly – and understandably – contested thanks to possible goalie interference by Patric Hornqvist.

At his best, Hornqvist is in the thick of things, and that was certainly the case on Monday. Granted, this hit on T.J. Oshie was questionable:

Braden Holtby was chased from the Capitals net after the Penguins reeled off five goals in 8:09, which you can view here:

The Capitals brought a 2-0 lead into the second period and fattened it to 3-0. After that, the Penguins built a 5-3 lead with the flurry from above.

Brett Connolly made it 5-4 just 30 seconds after Malkin’s second goal, while Lars Eller tied it up at 5-5 about two minutes later.

That tie lasted … less than 30 seconds, as Malkin’s third tally made it 6-5 for the Penguins.

There’s a bunch of other stuff that happened, too, probably.

/catches breath

You can watch the rest of the game on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App. Here’s the livestream link.

Enjoy goalie blunders? Tonight is your night (Video)

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A national holiday made for some funky start times, at least for a Monday. Perhaps that explains why we enjoyed a pretty hearty helping of goalie gaffes today, then?

Whatever the case may be, if you’re in the mood for a little whimsy, you came to the right place.

Today’s 5-2 win for the San Jose Sharks over the struggling Winnipeg Jets provided a double shot of moments netminders would like to forget, as you can see from the video above.

Michael Hutchinson‘s probably in less of a laughing mood about his bad bounce, while Martin Jones tried to score an empty-netter … and instead allowed Mark Scheifele to grab a “gimme” instead.

Finally, the Tampa Bay Lightning can laugh this one off a bit since they ultimately nabbed a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings, but this would be an example fans use when they beg Ben Bishop to handle the puck a little less often:

Hey, at least two out of three goalies eventually got wins out of the deal. Sorry, Hutch.

Video: Oshie’s sweet dish sets up a nice Backstrom goal for Capitals

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There’s time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to flip the scrip, but so far on Monday, it looks like the patterns continue to go the Washington Capitals’ way.

The Caps are aiming for a 10th straight win (and Pittsburgh’s fourth consecutive loss) after taking a 2-0 lead through the first period.

The strong play of Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie stands as one of the reasons why Washington has been blazing such an impressive path, and they combined for a really nice goal to give their team that added cushion. Both Oshie’s pass and Backstrom’s goal are impressive in the clip above.

Also, here’s the Andre Burakovsky goal that began the scoring:

And, just for the heck of it: