The Isles’ Fate Lies in Bridgeport

A small but electric crowd of 12,785 booed J-F Berube after giving up a fourth Carolina goal on just their 13th shot on net. The booing then suddenly stopped and the crowd got on their feet to give a standing ovation to Thomas Greiss who entered the game to replace Berube in goal. Greiss’ first shot against him went in. Soon after that, another one went in and when Greiss would make a simple save, the crowd would sarcastically cheer for him. By the end of the game, an 8-4 loss, the Isles fans that remained in the building that weren’t booing chanted “Jar-o, Jar-o, Jar-o”, a chant fans used when goaltender Jaroslav Halak was with the team and made a big save. Where is he now and could he be the answer to the Isles’ recent goaltending woes? Halak is currently a call-up away, down in Bridgeport with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. A day after a game on December 29th, 2016 against the Minnesota Wild where Jaroslav Halak was pulled after allowing four goals on 25 shots, he was placed on waivers. He cleared waivers and has been playing in Bridgeport ever since. Halak has a 6-8-5 record at the NHL level this season with a 3.23 goals against average, a .904 save percentage, and one shutout. At the AHL level Halak is 16-5-3 with a 2.17 goals against average, a .926 save percentage, and two shutouts. There are some positives and negatives towards calling up Halak and here they are…

Three Call-Up Rule:

Following the trade deadline, there is no 23 man roster limit but a team is only allowed three call-ups until the end of the regular-season. The Islanders used one of their three already, calling up Josh Ho-Sang. With 14 games left in the regular-season, this shouldn’t be a problem but it’s something to consider if the Isles wanted to give Ryan Pulock, Michael Dal Colle, or someone else a chance.

Admitting to Being Wrong and Over a Year Wasted:

When Isles’ General Manager Garth Snow waived Halak he made a statement, a statement majority of the Islanders’ fanbase was behind. Now, if Halak were to be called up, it seems like another move would have to be made in addition which would likely be waiving J-F Berube. Since claiming Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings before the start of the 2015-2016 season, the Islanders went with a three goaltender tandem until late December 2016. The team feared that placing Berube on waivers would result in him being claimed by another team. With a 3-2-2 record, a 3.42 goals against average, and a .889 save percentage, it’s hard to imagine a team claiming Berube at this point. Berube has not played enough games to keep his status as a restricted free agent and therefore will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. So by calling up Halak, it would be admitting that the team was wrong for sending him down in the first place and admitting to being wrong isn’t easy, especially when you’re a professional sports team with fans counting on you to make the right moves.

Proven Goaltender:

Whether he is taking teams far into the playoffs or backstopping Team Europe to an unlikely appearance in the finals at the World Cup of Hockey, Halak is a proven goaltender. Throughout his career, Halak is 13-15 in the playoffs with a 2.39 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage. He went 3-4 for the Islanders in the team’s 2015 first round series against the Washington Capitals finishing with 2.30 goals against average and a .926 save percentage with an overall impressive record in elimination games. Of course, Thomas Greiss was solid for the Isles in the playoffs too, going 5-6 last season with a 2.46 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. The argument isn’t that Halak should start over Greiss, it’s that his experience could be very valuable to a team battling for a playoff spot in the final game’s of the regular-season.

The Verdict:

I would like to see Jaroslav Halak back up in the NHL with the Islanders. Although the AHL is a much different league than the NHL, Halak has proven himself as an elite goaltender down there and has proven himself as an elite goaltender at the NHL level before too. Life is about second chances, and giving Halak one could save the Islanders’ season.

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