Note to self: Don’t start Jaroslav Halak against his former clubs. For whatever reason, the Vancouver Canucks back-up has a history of melting down against his ex-franchises. When he was an Islander the team made it a policy of not starting him against his former teammates. We’ll show you why.
The Canucks seemingly got away with it in Boston earlier this season on November 28th against Halak’s most recent previous team, yet they did blow a third period lead and lost the game to the Bruins 3-2. Halak stopped 92.9% of the shots that evening, although Anton Blidh’s first period goal was a weak one. Halak’s performance was a false flag.
Wednesday night’s first goal from Zach Parise of the Islanders against the Vancouver Canucks was easily preventable. The goalie had his stick turned the wrong way on a centering pass, or as former NHL goalie Darren Pang put it on the national US broadcast, “you can see that Halak was passive with his stick. All he has to do is be more aggressive and knock that puck back right away.”
Instead he created the scoring chance and the goal that resulted.
Make the easy play there and the game simply continues zero-zero. Instead, the floodgates opened and the Isles had three goals in :31 seconds. By the time the fourth New York goal rolled around at 13:11, it appeared Halak had given up on it. Doom and gloom prevailed.
So why? We’re not psychologists, but it’s apparent that Halak’s previous teams were aware of the tendency.
With the Islanders in 2014-’15 Halak went from early November to early December winning eleven games in a row and allowing a grand total of 14 goals over the stretch. The next two games were against the team he played for the previous four seasons, the St. Louis Blues.
On the night of December 6th, 2014, the winning streak ended when Halak suddenly gave up six goals with an 85% save percentage. His next game, five nights later, again against the Blues, he gave up five tallies while making just 84% of the saves.
The next seven opponents after that: Beat them all, with save percentages as high as .957. The only time it slipped below 90% during that run was against the Washington Capitals, a team Halak played for a grand total of 12 games as a trade deadline rental the previous year.
On January 17, 2015, against his first NHL team, the Montreal Canadians, the Habs scored six times.
Early in the 2015-’16 season Halak started two November games for the Islanders against Montreal. He lost both, and in the latter got yanked after the first period after giving up three goals.
The next time the Isles would start him against the Blues or Canadians was two-and-a-half seasons later, on February 28th, 2018. It didn’t matter, the team was floundering out of the playoffs, playing out the string, and Halak gave up eight goals over a back-to-back and lost both.
In 2018-’19 the Bruins didn’t start Halak against the Islanders or Blues. He played the Habs once and shut them out. Maybe the emotional “statute of limitations” had run out after nine years. He beat them in one game the following season as well. Again, for the full season, they didn’t play him against his two more recent teams.
Last season in bubble-world the Bruins played Halak against the Islanders three times. He gave up 12 goals and went 0-2-and-1.
After a week off other than playing 10-minutes of NHL All-Star 3-on-3, Thatcher Demko starting last night in a back-to-back would have made sense.
Hindsight is 20-20, Vancouver Canucks.