Halak Of Confidence Sinks Canadiens In Loss To Devils


Yup, I'm beginning to feel the same way about Jaroslav Halak as I once did about David "Swiss Cheese" Aebischer two seasons ago. And it ain't good.

Starting Halak is becoming the equivalent of a guaranteed loss.

Often, with Halak in nets, the Canadiens have been shaky themselves, surely due to the apparent lack of confidence they have in him. Against Jersey, the Habs put in a solid effort despite the fact that Halak left his mental composure and focus at the Holiday Inn.

Two points to make about this up front: The Habs had little other choice to play him with Carey Price hurt, and Halak was a man about it after the game, openly admitting (the obvious) that he effed up. Some opinions will points to errors Canadiens players made on all three of New Jersey's goals against Halak, and that's all good and democratic, but a goalie has to stop those shots.

In fact, the errors Canadiens players made in this game are bluntly irrelevant. Players make mistakes all the time. Hockey is a game of errors, forcing them, and capitalizing on them.

A goaltender, as the last wall of defense, must limit his own errors in order for a team to be confident in him. The goalie also has option on which side to err. Halak's focus on this night was not on making the first save. It was on covering too many options at once.

His eyes, his glances, should never extend to a player without the puck. All three goals beat him because he allowed his focus to be distracted this way.


On the first goal by the Devils Brian Gionta, Jersey basically had a 4 on 2 break. Josh Gorges had the player breaking to the net all but eliminated, and Kyle Chipchura, back subbing for a pinching Roman Hamrlik, allowed Gionta's shot from the outside.

It was a text book, run of the mill, exercise play. All Halak needed to do was set his angle right and be ready. He immediately butterflied on the slap, but his blocker never followed the low blast to the right side. To me, that tells Halak's eyes where elsewhere. A 35 foot angled shot from the faceoff circle should never beat a goalie low.

Halak is not a large goalie like Carey Price is. There is no compensating for that, and there is no way to cheat to make himself bigger, or quicker. His job consists of playing the shot (focusing on stopping the first one) and limiting the rebounds. The remainder of the work, a goalie is best leaving to team mates.

When a goaltender begins to worry about his abilities, he attempts to do too much, just as defenseman and forwards have a tendency to do. Team mates pick up on these facets real quick, and the confidence fades with it.

A goalie lacking faith in his team, becomes victim to all kinds of odd reactions in order to compensate his fears. The same goes on the flipside, where players having little confidence in their goalie, begin to do everything tentatively. They stoop hitting as eagerly, fearful of placing themselves out of position, and they lay back on rushes, not risking to be caught up ice.

The bottom line is that when a team has no faith that their goalie can make the first stop, all confidence breaks down. And within a team, confidence is a two way street with twelve interesections.


On Jersey's second goal, a puck flipping over Andrei Markov's stick created a Zack Parise break in. As the Devils star bore in on him. He faked a deked pass to the slot, where a breaking Jamie Langenbrunner, covered by three Canadiens, would never have been an option. Halak opened his legs like a Newfie girl at a junior prom, and Parise took advantage.

In the second frame, Halak made the same boob on the Devils third goal as he did on their first, failing to stop a 30 footer by John Madden, who shot from the same spot as Gionta on a 2 on1. Madden, a defensive specialist par excellence, hadn't netted a goal in over 20 games.


With seven minutes to go in the period, Halak made a routine save on a shot by Bobby Holik, and the rebound dribbled a before him. In a kinetic, nervous reaction similar to past Aebischer neuro - gymnastics, Halak looked behind himself, terribly unaware of the puck's location.Bomb_fight_3_medium

Mike Komisarek shoved the net off it's moorings to limit the damage to a minor penalty, and at the Canadiens bench for all the world to see, coach Guy Carbonneau alerted backup Marc Denis to get ready.

Denis started the third, and looked somewhat shaky himself at times, but at this point, the game was all but in the books.

Barring the Halak breakdown, two unforgettable moments occured during this game.

The other noteworthy moment came when Habs forward Tom Kostopoulos dropped the gloves against the Devils David Clarkson in what had to be the most inept display of pugilistic prowess witnessed in along time. Clarkson might have had close to three clean chances to K.O. Kostopoulos, but the Canadiens player's grip on the Devil was so unorthodox, it made the whole bout comedic at best.

Photos and video from Montreal Canadiens.com.

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