We all recall two years ago when Jaroslav Halak made himself a household name in Montreal by helping lead the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals. After being traded to St. Louis last offseason and going through what some would say was a bit of a disappointing year for the Slovakian netminder, the Blues enter this season with a lot of hype.
After all, the Blues come into the new season healthy with all of their youthful big guns ready to show what they’re made of in the NHL. David Backes starts the year as the team’s new captain and guys like T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Alex Steen, Matt D’Agostini, and Kevin Shattenkirk are looking to be the guys that bust things up in the West. The keys to doing that, however, my rest in Halak’s hands.
After a disappointing preseason, Halak is hoping it’s not a sign of things to come and he knows the pressure is on him to pull it together and get the Blues to the playoffs. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch has the story.
Still, there is some concern about how the Blues’ No. 1 netminder will respond in his second season with the club after a preseason performance that won’t show up on any of his personal highlight reels. He was 1-2 with a 2.68 GAA and .869 save-percentage.
“No one ever won the league in the preseason,” Halak said. “I know everybody wants to see the wins and no one wants to lose. … I only won one (game) … so what can I do? It’s only the preseason, so let’s turn the page and focus on our practices right now and especially Saturday’s game.”
They’ll need Halak to be on top of his game because things aren’t confidence-inspiring when it comes to his backups. Brian Elliott beat out Ben Bishop for the backup job in training camp and while Elliott has been a starter in Ottawa and Colorado, those weren’t exactly the greatest teams. Elliott split time with Pascal Leclaire in 2009-2010 when the Senators went to the playoffs, but the wheels came off the train last year in Ottawa and he was dealt to Colorado for Craig Anderson. Things didn’t improve in Denver and the Avs allowed Elliott to walk as a free agent.
Suffice it to say, it’s Halak or bust in St. Louis. Provided Halak can stay healthy all year and show the kind of game he had in Montreal that made the Habs an impossible team to face in the postseason, the Blues figure to be equally difficult to deal with. They’re skilled, they have pesky and tough defensive players, and they’re young and brimming with confidence. It’s the perfect mix for St. Louis to be a postseason hopeful this season. Halak will hope that a poor preseason is just that and he can take care of business when the games count beginning on Saturday.