Happy Easter Sunday to the whole famn HIO damily!
And what better way to celebrate than by starting a good throw-down between the Halakites and the Priceians.
Sitting down to dinner in the Bell Centre’s Jacques Beauchamp media lounge, Red Fisher offered some unsolicited advice to Canadiens’ management:
“I’d sign him now.”
“Him” is Jaroslav Halak – and this was an hour before Jaro received his customary tumultuous applause from the adoring hometown fans and 3 1/2 hours before he skated off the ice with his second shutout in 24 hours.
If you haven’t done so yet, read Jean-Franccois Bégin’s superb La Presse feature on Jaro. Most interesting are the comments of former Canadiens’ goaltending coach Roland Melanson:
“Nothing about Jaro’s success surprises me,” Melanson told Bégin. “He’s a guy who’s tough and self-disciplined, who always wants to play at the very hghest level. It takes an attitude like that to be number-one.”
What do you suppose Melanson, who lost his job because of problems with Carey Price, say about the Canadiens’ number-two goaltender?
I’m getting a sore butt, like the Easter bunny in the cartoon, from fence-sitting on the goaltender issue.
A batallion of hockey gurus, from Scotty Bowman down, think the
Canadiens should keep Carey Price. The consensus among experts: Price
has more upside than Halak.
But does Price have the attitude and
work ethic to realize his immense potential?
Perhaps Jaro Halak,
who turns 25 next month, will never be better than he is now.
you know what?
He’s pretty good.
And Jaro will work hard at
getting better. Just since the beginning of this season, you can see
improvement in his puckhandling.
Chosen in the ninth round of the 2003 draft, 271st overall, Halak has worked his butt off and overachieved at every level of his career: the Q, the ECHL, the AHL, the Olympic Games and The Show.
In Bégin’s piece, Gilles Moffet, editor of of Goalies’ World magazine, offers this assessment of Halak:
“The word that sums him up best is ‘competitor’. He’s not a first-round draft choice and he’s had to fight to get to where he is. He’s very methodical and takes nothing for granted.
“He excels at getting his knee down for shots from an angle, and his footwork and balance are exceptional. Because he’s not big – 5’11”, 180 pounds – he has to maximize the space he can cover. This requires good reading of the play and very precise positioning.”
Jan Filc, the former goaltender who coached Slovakia in Vancouver, told Bégin described Halak as “very flexible, a master of the butterfly who has very fast arms.
“Few goaltenders cover as much space and react as quickly on high shots,” Filc added. “He’s also very patient.”
In addition to his physical skills, Halak has a lot of talent between the ears.
As was the case with Cristobal Huet, Jaro takes the blame for his rare losses and lavishes praise on his teammates for wins … even on the frequent occasions when he’s had to stand on his head and make 40-plus stops for a W.
My great and good friend Red Fisher is a grumpy old coot who has spent two seasons ragging on Carey Price because Red resented the unseemly haste with which some anointed the kid Franchise Saviour.
But when the Living Legend of Sports Journalism began his career, he covered Jacques Plante. Red has seen many goaltenders – good, bad and indifferent – over the last 55 years.
If Fisher thinks Halak should be signed, then it’s Pierre Gauthier should seriously consider.
I don’t envy the Canadiens’ GM.
Either of his goaltenders could become a star elsewhere. But which of them is the greater risk to become a bust in Montreal.
Jaro Halak, who hasn’t given up a goal in 144:41, will start Tuesday on Long Island.
Unless he’s bombed by the Islanders, Jaro will start in Carolina on Thursday.
Best case scenario has him resting for the playoffs while Price – who began the season with a 43-save performance in Toronto – plays a meaningless game against the Leafs.
Then you can bet al your Easter eggs Halak will start the playoffs, where jaro’s performance will either up his market value or make it impossible for Gauthier to lose him.
On that note, I leave it to the Commentariat.
But please, let’s keep it civil.