Thursday, October 22, 2009

Diving head first into a can of worms

Jaroslav Halak has been confirmed as the Habs starter for a second game in a row Thursday night against the lowly Islanders.

It's not a huge surprise since Halak was good enough to actually win a game Tuesday night, and since Carey Price wasn't in his four previous starts. But it's a surprise nonetheless, at least to me, because if Price is truly the No. 1 goalie on this team he deserves this cream puff start.

Price hasn't been the same goalie since being shelled for seven goals in front of family and friends at GM Place in Vancouver. Because of that, he was rightfully benched Tuesday night in favour of Halak, who delivered the goods.

But now that Halak has gotten the nod twice in a row, would it not be fair for Price to wonder whether or not he is indeed this team's No. 1 goalie, as Martin surely told him he was when he flew out to Calgary this summer just to see him?

What if Halak pitches a shutout tonight, who starts Saturday against the Rangers? What if it's Price who gets the call Saturday and he stinks it up? What then? Back to Halak against the Isles on Monday? Then, what if Halak wins again on Monday night? Do you keep him in until he loses?

There are very few backup goalies in this league who would get two starts in a row, because goalies who do that are not backups. They are starters. There's no reason why Price wouldn't get the start tonight under normal circumstances, if indeed he was the unchallenged No. 1 goalie for the Canadiens.

Now, this decision could have something to do with a team showing interest in Halak and wanting to see him play (The Blackhawks had a scout at Tuesday's game against the Thrashers again, but the Habs play them next week). I doubt that, because there's nothing a team will see in one game that would trump everything else Halak has done to this point in his career. If he lets in six goals tonight, does that force another team to pull the plug on a deal? Do they instantly forget everything Halak has done that got them interested to begin with?

No, this was a hockey decision, and in that sense could be the starting point of a season-long debate over who deserves the starting job in Montreal. Based on pedigree, based on the draft, based on potential, based on what the GM said last spring, the deserving starter is Price. Based on performance, at least over the past nine months, the deserving starter is Halak.

Call it whatever you want, accuse me of over-blowing things, but going with Halak tonight has opened up a potential can of worms the organization won't want to deal with: a goalie controversy. While allowing Halak to play as long as he performs is the fair way to do things, when your supposed franchise player has serious confidence issues to deal with, I'm not sure if fair is the way to go right now.


Paul said...

I have no issues with Halak getting another start. And if two starts in a row proves such a psychological blow to Price, then he isn't cut out for the job.

Patrick Roy (not that I'm making a talent comparison with Price) went from Conn Smythe winner to sharing the net and not even being the starter AFTER the 86 Cup and it did not seem to ruin him or his confidence. A number one spot is (or should be) earned, not bestowed and Price has not unequivocally earned it yet (I believe he will, but until it happens, my belief and 5 bucks will get you a latte at Second Cup).

Anvilcloud said...

I have never really thought of CP as the de facto #1 goalie. Ultimately, I'd like for JH to get close to 40% of the starts regardless because even if CP is #1, it's not by much of a margin. Another thing is that JH seems to get hot sometimes, and maybe this is one of those times.

Anonymous said...

I think what we're all forgetting is that the controversy got into Carey's head last year probably because Carbo didn't really COMMUNICATE anything to him. I'm willing to bet $1000 that when making the call to give Halak a 2nd start in a row, he sat Carey down and explained his rationale. So I don't really think this will mess with Carey's psyche as much as everyone else seems to.

As to who is the actual no. 1... that's another story...

V said...

I thought of a couple of things when I read the article, but the three excellent comments have already beaten me to it!

All I can add is that giving Halak another start is a reward and a positive incentive. He's good, and we don't want him acting like Sergei.

My gut feeling:
Price will be even better after the break, and if Halak does get a string of starts, he'll eventually give up 3-7 goals as well, and we'll return here.

Anonymous said...

This is nothing new. We've had this "controversy" since we've had Huet!
We have a 'backup' who'd be a starting goalie for at most other NHL teams.
Price has been stellar all season, even in that 7 goal game. But Halak gets the W, so play the hot hand.

Anonymous said...

At some point the success of the organization must come before the ego of its most fragile player. Whoever is stopping pucks and winning games gets the starts. Period.

Habsinsideout byrneo

Sliver24 said...

You're over-blowing things.

What's wrong with challenging Price's status as automatic #1? He's been given more chances than he deserves, as far as I'm concerned, and Halak has not been given a fair shake by the Habs.

Price will likely (hopefully?) establish himself as the undisputed starter at some point in his career. Who knows, maybe even this year.

To this point he hasn't done it and the situation should be handled accordingly. Ride the hot goalie until he's cold, then give the other guy a shot.

Anonymous said...

Although it is easy to get sucked into the "goaltending debate", there is no controversy here. Price is #1...Halak is a great #2.

Halak played great against Atlanta and the Habs got the win. Go with it. Regardless of the outcome tonight, you'll see Price between the pipes on Saturday.

Having two solid goalies is a good problem. And it is encouraging to note that the Habs have not lost this year BECAUSE of their goalie situation (including the blowout in Vancouver). Both goalies are giving the Habs a chance to win.

In my eyes, there will only be a goaltending debate when one of the two goalies is to blame for a loss.

Super Youppi

Arpon Basu said...

I hear what all of you are saying. I really do. But there is some long-term planning that needs to be done to manage Price's career, particularly since he needs to be re-signed at season's end. That's all I'm saying. I don't think Price has played particularly poorly since that Vancouver game. In fact, if you take out that game against the Canucks, he has a .910 save percentage this season, though his last three games he did give up three goals in each. Meanwhile, Halak had a great pre-season, a not-so-great game in Calgary, then one win where he wasn't tested very much. But it was a win, something Price hasn't been able to do, except I'm not so sure he wouldn't have been able to grab a victory Tuesday night against a tired Thrashers team as well.

Topham said...

Blah, blah, blah, everything to manage Carey Price's career. All the while many would piss all over Halak's.

They're both big boys now and can compete for starts, wins, whatever. If adversity breaks Price, then he was meant to be broken, because he never would have been the goalie we should commit to for 15 years anyway. If it breaks Halak, then so be it.

Besides, since when can't you manage a career from the bench. Just about every other rookie goalie who actually has to earn time over years has done it that way. It's about time Carey learns that entitlement as a concept is passe in Montreal.

Anonymous said...

Gee would you rather have had the Habs lose, then there would be no contraversy. This is a yawner of an issue.

Anonymous said...

So what if Price sits for 2, or 4 or even 12 games? Is everyone so afraid that he might sulk? Well, he might. Remember his tantrum when he was sent down to Hamilton in his FIRST YEAR, at 19? I wonder how he would have taken it if he were demoted this year, before the team-bonding trip at Teen Ranch.

Anonymous said...

why is halak even in montreal. if he is good enough to start, he should have been traded for a more useful asset while we signed a veteran backup for price. this is another situation gainey dropped the ball on.

Anonymous said...

there is no controversy. but you try to create one on your blog. i don't blame you, that's what gets people reading you. But are you really any better than the MSN story in terms of credibility? your premise stems from if then than that multiple times. it's about winning and losing.

Topham said...

Anon, Arpon's piece is an editorial and at no point does it claim it isn't opinion based. That's where his story is completely polarised from the story.

But you are right about controversy, it does stir the debate. Funny isn't it that sites created to foster discussion would, well, want to foster discussion.

Anonymous said...

Not sure you'll read this Topham, but I don't criticize Apron for stirring debate. Good for him. I like his site, which is why I read it. What I am saying is he is critizing someone and does the same thing. Opinion or not, Apron is a journalist and critiques the MSN columnist as such. Just saying speculating about the Habs calling in to have an article removed is pure speculation with no real source, just like the MSN columnist. I am not hating on him just pointing out his flaw here.