During the first three rounds of the playoffs, one person was standing out on the Montreal Canadiens, goalie Jaroslav Halak. Thanks to Halak standing on his head, the Canadiens managed to defeat the President's Trophy winning Washington Capitals in a game 7 in the first round and went on to defeat the Pens in the second round before succumbing to the Flyers in the third round. Halak had the best SV% and 3rd best GAA in the playoffs!
In a surprising summer move, the Canadiens traded their play off star to the St. Louis Blues. Halak was a bit surprised saying:
Carey Price better bring his A game next season!!
“They never talked to us about the possibility of a new deal or staying in Montreal, but it never happened. That’s why the news I got today was a little bit surprising for me. I’m very excited that I’m in St. Louis, and I’m looking forward to the new start and fresh start for me."
Jaroslav Halak was born on May 13, 1985 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Halak began his march to the NHL in the 2002-03 season when at age 17 he played for Bratislava of the Slovakian junior league. In 2003, Halak was drafted in the 9th round, 271st overall by the Montreal Canadiens, but remained in Slovakia for the 2003-04 season, where he made the jump to the Slovak Extraliga League. He appeared in 12 games for HC Slovan Bratislava, putting up great numbers in his 12 games. He posted a 1.66 goals against average and a .942 save percentage.
Halak decided to come to North America and play major junior hockey with the Lewiston Maineiacs of the QMJHL. For the 2004-05 season he appeared in 47 games for the Maineacs, posting a record of 24-17-4 with a 2.78 GAA and a .913 SV%.
Montreal continued to let Halak develop and the 2005-06 season saw him splitting time between the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the ECHL and Montreal's AHL farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs.
After playing well the previous season, Jaroslav started the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, playing 28 games with them and posting a record of 16-11. Halak's stats were impressive that season, with a 2.00 GAA and a .932 SV%.
On February 15, 2007 Jaroslav Halak made his NHL debut when he got the call up due to an injury to Cristobal Huet. He made 31 saves in a 3–2 road win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Prior to his call up that year, he had the lowest goals against average (2.00) in the AHL with Hamilton.
For the 2007-08 season, Halak had been assigned to Hamilton. In Montreal however, then-GM, Bob Gainey felt it was time to make Carey Price the starter, so Huet was traded. Halak was called up from the AHL for the final time and became Price's backup. Though he was a full time backup, Montreal soon saw Halak's talent.
The 2008-09 season saw more of Halak splitting the crease with Carey Price. Halak played in 34 games posting a .915 SV% and a 2.86 GAA.
The 2009-10 season was a banner year for Halak. He started 45 games for the Canadiens and posted a .924 SV% and a 2.40 GAA. Halak was also named the Molson's Canadiens Player of the Year in 2010.
Jaroslav also had success on the international level. In the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Halak started as the goaltender for the Slovak National Team. Though Slovakia ultimately finished fourth, Halak stopped 36 of 37 shots as he backstopped his team to a preliminary round game victory against a strong Russian team. After his play in the Olympics, the Canadiens designated Halak the starting goaltender for the Canadiens.
Though Jaroslav had a good showing in many nights of the playoffs, Game 6 against the Capitals could have been called his masterpiece! In a performance that Habs fans argue could go on the pages of playoff heroics by greats Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, Halak made an astounding 53 saves to force a game 7.
From what I've read on-line, many Habs fans are confused about trading their playoff hero and certainly think he warranted more than 2 young prospects (Lars Eller and Ian Schultz). Carey Price had better get ready!