Halak Settling Into Role as No. 1

Sunday, 10.2.2011 / 9:56 AM CT / St Louis Blues - Features
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Halak Settling Into Role as No. 1
After a huge 2010 postseason ended a tumultuous up-and-down run with the Canadiens, goalie Jaroslav Halak has settled in with the St. Louis Blues as the franchise\'s undisputed No. 1 in net.
Ask Jaroslav Halak if he's sampled any of the local cuisine St. Louis is noted for -- like toasted ravioli and barbecue ribs -- and he quickly says no.

"I haven't eaten those," Halak told NHL.com. "Actually, my girlfriend, she's a great cook, so she's cooking, always cooking something, and she's trying to prepare some Slovak meals all the time and trying to make it feel like home."

Though some might argue Halak is missing out on some of the city's finer things, whatever makes him comfortable enough to feel like home only can be good for the Blues.

Halak never had been in a stable, starting role at the NHL level, having spent most of his early career shuttling between Montreal and the Canadiens' AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. However, that changed last summer when the Canadiens dealt the 26-year-old to the Blues. St. Louis quickly signed him to a four-year contract and installed him as the undisputed starter.

There were ups and downs, as Halak went 27-21-7 with a 2.48 goals-against average and seven shutouts, fourth in the League. However, he missed 13 games with a hand injury and played just 57 games.

"It was obviously an adjustment for me, going into a new team, new teammates, a new city, so obviously I was just getting used to it," Halak said. "Right now I know what to expect and I know the expectations for everybody, so I'm excited and looking forward to the new challenges of the new season."

The Blues have missed the playoffs two straight seasons, and five times in the last six, meaning the majority of the young roster has yet to taste significant playoff success.

Halak, however, doesn't have that problem. As a member of the Canadiens in 2010, he crafted one of the best playoff performances in recent memory -- one that, in fact, punched his ticket to St. Louis.

In the 2010 playoffs, he backstopped the eighth-seeded Canadiens from a 3-1 series deficit to a seven-game first-round series win against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, and in the second round eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Against the Caps, Halak stopped 131 of the 134 shots he saw in the final three games.

"I was feeling great being part of the group because the guys were blocking so many shots for me every game," Halak said. "A goalie wins some games for a team and some nights the team scores big goals for the goalie.

"Every game, every play that I made, some saves, I was just feeling great and getting more confidence."

While Montreal lost to Philadelphia in five games in the conference finals, his legend was etched in Canadiens lore. In the most prominent example, stop signs around Montreal had the word "HALAK" painted on them.

With Carey Price the designated goalie of the future, though, the Canadiens dealt Halak to the Blues in exchange for forwards Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.

"I knew it most likely was going to be me who would be traded, but obviously when you hear the news you get surprised," Halak said. "I was surprised that it happened, but at the same time I was happy to be on a team that wants to give me a chance to be a No. 1. I couldn't be any happier to be with St. Louis and be part of the young group we have."

Halak and the Blues have their sights firmly fixed on a return to the postseason, and there's no reason to think they won't be in the mix. Recently named captain David Backes leads a group of forwards that is high on skill and grit, with players like McDonald and Chris Stewart lending potency to an offense that was 10th in goals per game last season.

The defense, too, should be solid with Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo potentially forming a lethal scoring tandem from the blue line. Throw in the added veteran presence of forwards Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner and there are many things to like about St. Louis heading into the season. If the Blues can stay healthy, a playoff berth should be right in their crosshairs.

Of course, as a beaten-up St. Louis team learned in 2010-11, "if" is the operative word.

"Last season the injuries just killed us," Halak said. "In this League if you lose some key players and you lose five, six games in a row, it's going to show at the end of the season."

With the good fortune the Blues' are owed after suffering all those injuries last season, they could finish in the West's top eight this season, and with an experienced netminder, a few breaks could have St. Louis residents putting up some traffic signs of their own next spring.

Author: David Kalan | NHL.com Staff Writer




1 ANA 76 47 22 7 222 213 101
2 NSH 75 46 21 8 214 180 100
3 STL 74 46 21 7 226 182 99
4 CHI 73 44 23 6 207 167 94
5 MIN 74 42 25 7 211 183 91
6 VAN 74 43 27 4 212 199 90
7 WPG 75 39 24 12 212 197 90
8 LAK 74 37 23 14 199 184 88
9 CGY 74 40 27 7 217 195 87
10 DAL 74 36 28 10 232 236 82
11 SJS 74 36 30 8 207 210 80
12 COL 74 34 28 12 200 206 80
13 EDM 74 21 40 13 177 254 55
14 ARI 75 23 44 8 158 249 54


V. Tarasenko 74 35 35 29 70
A. Steen 72 24 38 6 62
J. Schwartz 67 24 31 16 55
D. Backes 73 25 29 7 54
T. Oshie 66 19 32 13 51
P. Stastny 66 14 29 6 43
A. Pietrangelo 74 6 35 -2 41
K. Shattenkirk 49 8 32 18 40
J. Lehtera 67 11 28 19 39
P. Berglund 69 8 12 -6 20
B. Elliott 24 12 3 .921 2.16
J. Allen 19 6 4 .906 2.45

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