Blues insist they’re not worried about Halak after rough Olympic outing

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Jaroslav Halak had an Olympics to forget, allowing eight goals on 48 shots before getting replaced by KHL backup Jan Laco.

But the Blues say it’s of little concern.

“This isn’t to dismiss the Olympics at all, but I think it’s a difficult game to (evaluate a goalie),” head coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I saw (Henrik) Lundqvist, who basically sat on the goal line because it’s a protected area from the blue paint. I saw teams who had five (players) back on every rush, so they just defended.

“I just think it’s a real improper evaluation of any goaltender.”

Halak was hooked in a tournament-opening loss to the Americans after allowing five goals on 25 shots, but was given a chance to make amends with a start against Slovenia. He dropped the ball in stunning fashion, though, surrendering three goals as the Slovenians won for the first time in Olympic competition.

Afterwards, Halak took full responsibility for the defeat.

“I think the first goal, that was a really weak goal for me,” he said, per NHL.com. “I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of the period for us. If we’re going to blame somebody, I’ll take the full blame for this loss.”

Halak was then replaced by Laco, who currently serves as Michael Leighton’s backup with HC Donbass. While Halak wasn’t officially told he was done for the tournament, he figured he was — and that proved accurate, as Laco played against Russia and in the Slovaks’ quarterfinal loss to the Czechs.

This rough outing couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Blues and Halak were already the subject of trade rumors prior to the Games. They’ve been linked to Ryan Miller and haven’t exactly set about anointing Halak as their No. 1, as Hitchcock said the club will continue to employ the Halak-Brian Elliott timeshare.

That said, Hitchcock continues to have faith in Halak.

“Halak has been really good for us, he’s been really competitive after a tough outing, he’s had the mental capability of bouncing back and playing great the next night,” he explained.  “So we’ve got all kind of confidence in him.”