Saturday, April 3, 2010

Deja vu

It's somewhat ironic that Jaroslav Halak's second straight shutout Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres matched a feat last accomplished by Cristobal Huet in March of 2006.

I don't distinctly remember those games, even though I covered the second one. But what I do remember is the sound of 21,273 fans at the Bell Centre standing on their feet, chanting Huet's name as he was announced as the game's first star in a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers.

Huet, much like Halak, was a goalie who had never been given a legitimate shot at a number one job until he arrived in Montreal. Yet even though he was being showered with adulation at the time, he always stayed level, never once getting caught up in the hype machine that was surrounding him.

I asked him at the time how he did it, and here's what he said after being asked the same question three or four times: "I want to try and keep a low profile because we're still a fragile team. I don't want to think about the two shutouts, it's the team that's more important right now."

Fast forward four years to modern day Montreal, where Halak is spinning a tale very similar to Huet. His first star announcement Saturday night nearly blew the roof off the Bell Centre, and I felt kind of bad for third star Sergei Kostitsyn and second star Dominic Moore, because I got the distinct impression the crowd was saving itself for Jaro.

When he came out, it was magical. Except Halak, with his mask still on, made a very quick spin on the ice and took off for the dressing room, almost as if he didn't want to soak it all in. Didn't want to get drunk off that intoxicating elixir of the public's love. 

Just like Huet, Halak credited the team for playing well the past two games. And just like I did to Huet four years earlier, I tried to understand how Halak manages to brush off the waves of success that are coming at him fast and furious.

"You are as good as you were last night, or tonight," Halak said. "Tomorrow is another day. We can enjoy it tonight, but there are more games. So you have to stay even in between. You can't go too high."

Halak's record improved 26-12-3, but here's a more mind-boggling stat for you. The Canadiens as a team improved to 33-3-3 when they score at least three goals. Halak is 23-2-0 in those games, Carey Price is 10-1-3. Forget for an instant that the Canadiens have scored three times for Halak 11 more times than they have for Price, but just how great has the team's goaltending been when they've only lost six times all season when scoring three goals? Maybe if they worked on doing that more often, this would be a pretty impressive team.

Jacques Martin said afterwards that "when we forecheck, we're a very good hockey team." So I'm wondering why the team didn't forecheck at all with a 2-0 lead in Buffalo on March 24. Or with a 1-0 lead against the Carolina Hurricanes last week? Or a 1-0 lead in Philadelphia last night?

"What I liked about this game is that we're learning," Martin said. "With everything we did wrong last night, we came out with a lot of poise tonight, a lot of confidence with the puck."

The Canadiens are still in sixth spot in the East, and Buffalo dropped back to third with the loss. That means if nothing changes, these two teams would meet in the first round of the playoffs. Based on the last two games these teams have played, would you not be a little confident heading into that series? Just a little?

I was asking Andrei Markov that very question after the game, and he didn't even let me finish.

"Wait," he said, holding up his hands and shaking his head, a little unimpressed with my line of questioning.

"What," I asked, "you don't want to talk about the playoffs?"

With a very serious face, he looked at me and simply said, "No."

End of interview.

That, in a nutshell, tells you something about Andrei markov, and why I believe he should be captain of this team. Never too high, never too low, ultra-competitive. And even though things are looking good for a playoff berth right now, Markov knows the Habs are not out of the woods just yet. 


Anonymous said...

Here are some other stats. All Halak needed to win 5 times this year was 1 single goal- i.e. - he has 5 shutouts to the zero amount of shutouts Price has in a similar number of games.

Jaroslav Halak at .927 save percentage is #4 goalie in the NHL
Carey Price at .912 save percentage is the #20 goalie in the NHL

Halak's goals against average is 2.31

Price's goals against average is 2.77

Halak is 26-12-3
Price is 13-20-5

With the exact same team.

MathMan said...

I dunno if you can call them the "exact same team" when one scores as much as the Penguins and the other less than the Bruins. ;)

That's really been the biggest difference between the goalies...

Anonymous said...

@Math Man...

Yes, its the "Exact same team". Thats unless you give confidents a number and stuck him on the blueline.


Anonymous said...

Win percentage = W GP

# NAME Win %
1 Antti Niemi 64.7%
2 Jose Theodore 62.2%
3 Jaroslav Halak 61.9%
4 Evgeni Nabokov 61.2%
5 Ilya Bryzgalov 59.7%
6 Roberto Luongo 58.5%
7 Ryan Miller 58.2%
8 Martin Brodeur 57.5%
9 Jimmy Howard 56.7%
10 Jonathan Quick 56.5%
39 Carey Price 31.7%

Anonymous said...

Fact is Halak goals AGAINST average is almost a HALF A GOAL LOWER than Price's GAA is.

And his save percentage is 4th BEST in the NHL of ALL goalies while Price's is far behind him. That is why his won-loss record is NOT even comparable to Price's this season.

And YES, it is the exact same team, the exact same defense playing in front of both of these goalies. And it is NOT a great defense to say the least. What I really don't understand is how stupid are many Montreal fans that they boo Price when the team loses 2-1 and hate him and others of course then jump on the opposite side and start knocking Halak like it is a fluke or something.

Why are they not happy there are 2 good goalies here? There are several teams in the playoff race who would be more than glad to have either Price or Halak as their starter, teams like Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, etc. This is the best duo any team has. And goaltending and defense NOT offense wins in the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some of you don't remember as it was before your time, but once Habs had 2 real good young goaltenders come up at the same time, Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito, they earlier though decided to go with Dryden but in those days a goalie played almost all his team's games, and they traded Esposito to Chicago, and Habs had some great years with Dryden. But no one here ever knocked Esposito, and fact is probably this summer Habs will trade one of these goalies, probably Price if Halak performs this way thruout the playoffs and they will get something decent for Price in return if they trade him, so why knock and boo him which gives other GMs the chance to diminish his trade value by saying "well fans want him out of there anyway".

Anonymous said...

Read this story today in New York Post on 2 deals last year that were nearly made. One of them a Canadiens/TB deal including Price, the other a Ranger/TB deal for Stamkos.

LeMatheux said...

I'm not going into this debate again. The difference in goal support between the two goaltenders is a fact, and remains the biggest difference between the two. As for the win record, wins are team stats, not goaltender stats, and are 99% irrelevant when comparing goalies.

If the Habs were really foolish enough to pick up Lecavalier for Price, then they dodged a bullet there.

Anonymous said...

Re: "The difference in goal support between the two goaltenders is a fact, and remains the biggest difference between the two"



The difference in goal support average is about HALF a goal! BUT is washed out by the difference in GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE! Besides in a game like vs. Florida which appears as a 4 goal support 4-1 win, that was a 2-1 Halak game into the final minute with 2 empty net goals.

And what on earth does goals support have to do with SAVE PERCENTAGE BY EACH GOALIE? These 2 goalies have faced a similar amount of shots. Where Halak is 4th best in the league on the shots he has faced while Price is far behind him, just as he is far back in GAA. I never ever heard Jacques Plante criticized vs. other league goaltenders that his GAA was lower because Beliveau and Richard, etc. gave him great goal support.

Those save percentage and GAA are the reason along with Halak coming thru in the clutch at the end that is the reason for the HUGE, HUGE, HUGE difference in records playing behind the EXACT same defense and team.

Anonymous said...

Some other stats not on amount of shots or goals the Habs had on the opposition goal.

Carey Price has allowed 109 goals on 1,244 shots on him: .912 Save%.

Jaroslav Halak has faced 40 MORE shots or 1,284 shots BUT has allowed 15 LESS goals or 94 goals: .927 Save% which is 4th BEST in the NHL.

Has absolutely nothing to do with how many goals the Habs have scored.

Anonymous said...

To whoever is tossing out the pro-Halak stats...



Anonymous said...

They are not pro-Halak stats. They are the true stats.

I am not a fan of either goalie over the other, I like them both, but those are the facts.