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Halak Proves He’s Nothing More Than An Adequate Backup


Thank goodness for the return of Carey Price!

I’ve been upset some of the Canadiens losses this season – some more than others – but last night’s contest against the 29th place Atlanta Thrashes was absolute trash.

There are few things less obvious than when teams do not show up to play, or when a goalie’s competance saps a team of all composure. Last night was a case study in both. Who out there for Montreal, looked like they gave a damn, especially in the first period and a half.

Half of the Canadiens lineup showed up to play against a team whose lineup is only maybe at best half NHL calibre. The Habs played only half a game, gave half an effort in a half empty building.

It begs the question – did the Canadiens get up for this game?

As is often the norm in games against weaker opponants, and also in games near the All Star break, players and teams are often preoccupied with dealings outside the rink. The Canadiens hit the ice last night without their game faces on, and it was evident from the drop of the puck.

I’ve long held a theory for these so called “gimme games” against weak teams, and it has alot to do with the tone set by the coach. I’ve seen it so many times in fact, that I think I will start calling it out before games, write my entire post beforehand, and sit back and wait to be proven wrong.

With the Canadiens having up to six regulars out of the lineup, including Price, for this stretch, the team’s focus has been fairly sharp on most nights. There have been brief moments in some games where it has taken them some time to get their act together, but the line coughed up ad nauseum was that the club was finding ways to win.

I’d prefer a club that knows instinctively how to win, without needing to find a new method each time trouble arises. Last night’s game fall’s into the category of rediscovering an old new way to lose.


I’ve no idea what Guy Carbonneau was thinking in bringing Koivu, Higgins and Price along if he is not going to use them against Atlanta. Doing so, tells the players they are needed in this one. I don’t buy the mantra of the two games in two nights, keep the lineup fresh, bull. So many players became passengers last night, it was despicable.

Sooner or later, Carbonneau will have to clue into this easy game disease that inflicts this team. With that, he will also have to recognize that his moves are in part a great share of the blame.

I could not believe that he would not start Carey Price. The Bruins have just dropped a point to a lowly adeverary themselves in St. Louis. This was a crucial opportunity to gain a point on them, but the coach totally mismanaged it.

Some opinions might seek to absolve the coach in this, saying that it is the responsability of the players to get their game heads on. True enough, I say in partial agreement, but when the easy game habit is repetitive to this extreme, the coach’s responsability to make certain that his troups are psyched supercedes the players responsabilities.

Carbonneau’s head wasn’t in this one either. If it had been, Price would have come over the boards 20 minutes sooner. It is a fact of goaltending existance that they have occasional off nights. The tell tale signs never change. Mishandling rebounds, nervous defensemen, bad communication, shaky puck handling, hesitancy in movements, and weak goals are all dead giveaways that scream that a goalie is unprepared to play his best. After two goals, the evidence is there that he should be pulled. What more is a coach waiting to see? Nothing is ever won by waiting, and it was clear by Carbonneau’s sideline interview that his patience had run out. Why wait until it is too late in the game to hook a lame stopper?

As Price came in, the Canadiens on ice temperment immediately changed. They play their own game with him back there, and no more clear was that spoken in last night’s turnaround.


Montreal regained the edge in play due to the confidence that Price was back there, ready to cover their slips. In the final 30 minutes of the contest, they did enough to win this one, had Kari Lehtonen not put in a stellar display of goaltending prowess.

The line on Halak over the month of January was that he had been doing enough to allow his team to win.

Sorry, but that is not nearly enough. That’s a frail assesement.

A better evaluation of a goalie would best be viewed as, is he doing all the right things that allow his team to play with composure and confidence. I didn’t see that against Atlanta last night, by any means. Going back, I didn’t see it all against Ottawa. It was there, off and on, against Nashville. It was there, for the most part against the Bruins. It was tenuous at best against Washington. It went uneeded against Toronto and the Rangers. It was nowhere in sight against the Panthers. Against New Jersey nine games ago, same story.

The bottom line is that Halak will never challenge Carey Price for the number one job on this team. It won’t even ever be close. It has been decided by Halak’s latest run, that he will never be anything more than an adequate backup, at best.

Halak gave up 28 goals in almost 28 periods of work across nine games. That is nowhere near good enough. He was hooked twice across this span, first in the New Jersey game on January 2, and in this his ninth straight against the Thrashers. He’d have possibly been yanked in a pair of others had the solution on the bench been better than Marc Denis. His value is that of a fourth round draft pick, perhaps a third rounder from a desperate club at best. The only redeeming note to his nine game run is a 6-3 record that includes a pair of shootout wins.

Carbonneau will have to better learn how to manage his team’s psyche when he plays Halak, which shouldn’t any more than five more times this season, barring injury of course. In which case, the Habs would be in trouble if they finds themselves needing to count on Halak for another stretch.

Last night’s two lost points will be sorely missed at the end of the season.

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