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.