By Bryan Murphy | Follow Me On Twitter @bryan_murphy10
Going into the 2020 playoffs, Jaroslav Halak wasn’t expected to play more games than Tuukka Rask. But that is the case now, with Rask announcing he was opting out of the rest of the playoffs.
Halak hasn’t played in the playoffs since 2014-15 when he was with the New York Islanders. But he was solid in Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes, making 29 saves in a 3-1 win for Boston to pull ahead in the series, 2-1.
The goaltending duties are now solely on Halak, with Dan Vladar as his backup who has a grand total of zero games played in the NHL. However, he was fantastic in the 2019-20 regular season, posting a 18-6-6 record with a .919 save percentage and a .239 goal against average.
It’s true, it’s been sometime since Halak has played in the postseason. But he has no choice but to answer the bell now for a Bruins team looking to get back the Stanley Cup. Let’s see how Halak has done in the postseason in the past.
2009-2010 Run with the Canadiens
The 2009-2010 postseason was arguably Halak’s defining moment in the league. After competing with an up and coming Carey Price for the starting role with the Montreal Canadiens, Halak finally won the starting job as the Canadiens entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Going up against the President’s Trophy winner, the Washington Capitals, the Canadiens were seen as underdogs in the series.
Halak started the first three games, but after giving up six goals in a Game Two OT loss and three goals in a Game 3 in which he was pulled, the Canadiens elected to go with Price for Game 4. Price gave up four goals and the Canadiens were on the brink of elimination.
Going back with Halak for Game 5, the Slovakian turned it on. In Games 5, 6 and 7, Halak turned aside 131 total shots on 134 attempts. He made 53 saves in Game 6 and 41 saves in Game 7 to lead the Habs to a comeback series win over the Capitals.
The next round, the Habs squared off with the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a disappointing 6-3 loss in Game 1 where Halak gave up five goals and was pulled, Halak again turned a switch. He immediately bounced back with a 38-save win in Game 2 and in Game 7, Halak posted a 37-save win to send the Habs to a trip to the conference finals. In total, he gave up 11 goals in six games, after the disastrous Game 1.
The Cinderella story came to an end in the conference finals, where the Philadelphia Flyers bested the Canadiens in five games. Halak gave up 13 goals in the five games.
For Halak, he finished the 2010 playoffs with an impressive .923 save percentage and a 2.55 goals against average. He was the biggest reason why the Canadiens were able to make such an incredible run. The Canadiens then elected to go with Price as their goalie of the future and Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues.
2014-15 Playoffs With the Islanders
Halak was traded from the Capitals to the New York Islanders before the 2014, where he signed a four-year contract. In his first season as the starting goaltender on the Long Island, the Islanders made the playoffs, squaring off against a familiar foe for Halak – the Washington Capitals.
Halak, like the Islanders, was inconsistent in the series. After a Game 1 win where he made 24 of 25 saves, he gave up four goals on 35 shots in a Game 2 loss. After back-to-back strong performances in Game 3 and 4 where the two teams split, Halak again slumped in Game 5, giving up five goals in the loss.
Game 6, Halak put the Isles on his back, making 38 saves on 39 attempts in a crucial Game 6 victory. With that win, he moved to a 6-1 record when facing elimination in the playoffs.
While he was again strong in Game 7, making 24 saves, the Islanders lost 2-1 and were eliminated. It was the last time Halak played in the postseason before 2020.
Other Postseason Stats
Outside of the two seasons mentioned above, Halak has not been a starting goaltender in the postseason. He made one start in 2007-08 with Montreal, in addition to coming in relief. He also came in relief for one game for Montreal in 2008-09.
In 2011-12, he started the first two playoff games for the St. Louis Blue, with Brian Elliott injured. After a win and a loss, Elliot came back and started every game until the Blues were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals.
In his career, Halak has a 14-16 record with a .923 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average. Those numbers include the two games that he has played for the Bruins so far in these playoffs.
The Bruins now need to rally around Halak. Halak doesn’t have the longest postseason resume, but he’s created magic before. Boston sure would love to see him do it again.