Today we conclude our player report card series with Jaroslav Halak. Halak was out of the lineup for a handful of games at a time last season which allowed Thomas Greiss to take over as the team’s starting goaltender for most of the season and all of the playoffs. Many expected Greiss to be the starter once again this year but an old event that was brought back to the NHL after a 12 year absence changed that. That event would be the World Cup of Hockey which returned for the first time since 2004 with a few new rules and teams. One team was Team Europe, made up of the best players from every European country that didn’t have a team of its own. Both Halak (Slovakia) and Greiss (Germany) were selected to play for Team Europe and Halak was given the starting role. Not only did he play well but he flat out stole games for his underdog team, leading them to an unlikely trip to the finals. With that, Halak was given the Islanders’ starting job as well but after a 6-8-5 record, a 3.23 goals against average, and a .904 save percentage, Halak would be placed on waivers at the end of December. Halak cleared waivers and headed to Bridgeport where he was able to regain confidence with strong play. His strong play included a 17-7-3 record (including 12 wins in a row), a 2.15 goals against average, a .925 save percentage (ranked fourth overall in the AHL), and two shutouts. That was enough to get the Islanders to finally recall him where he would help the Islanders’ late season playoff push with six wins in six starts.
Importance to Team/Consistency: 20/30
At the beginning of the year many Islander fans saw it as Greiss’ net to defend but Halak kept getting starts in goal while the team kept losing. With Berube looking good in his few appearances before Halak was waived, fans didn’t view Halak as very important. However, Halak got his call up from Bridgeport on March 23rd and then won 4-3 over the Penguins in a shootout the following day. After that, with a few games that Greiss started in between, Halak would receive five consecutive starts and win them all.
I’ve never seen an NHL team or the Islanders themselves give up as many breakaways as they do when Halak is in goal. However, Halak approaches all of them with calmness whether he has to deny a simple shot or follow and track a move.
Clutch Factor: 9/10
As I mentioned earlier, Halak was given a lot of games earlier on in the year when the Islanders had hoped to climb out of the league’s basement. However, those starts often ended with losses but you can’t necessarily blame that on Halak while mostly everyone on the team wasn’t doing as they were expected to do. When he came back up from Bridgeport, Halak was lights out in constant ‘do or die’ situations, winning five straight starts.
Not much is known to the public about Halak in the lockeroom but we know he’s passionate. Being down in Bridgeport was also probably a big help for the younger players and goalies.
Jaroslav Halak 2016-17 Highlights:
Grade: 46/60; C+