It’s out there and it’s spreading. With a pair of shutouts in 24 hours, Jaroslav Halak couldn’t have chosen a better time to transform himself into league’s most feared force. While his goal crease has somehow not begun to melt from his mere presence, Halak has gone from fighting for every start in the Habs’ crease to one of the hottest goalies in the NHL.
Even after joining Cristobal Huet who was the last Habs goalie to post shutouts on consecutive nights in February 2006, Halak was, well, himself in the dressing room after his 3-0 win over the Sabres.
“I think everyone deserves credit for these two shutouts,” said a humble Halak, who was named the night’s first star after turning aside all 29 Buffalo shots. “We just played two tough games and the guys didn’t give the Flyers or the Sabres any good scoring chances. They were constantly blocking shots; they didn’t give them anything.”
Opponents hoping to steer clear of being stricken with Halaknophobia by hoping that the Habs’ goalie’s recent success will go to his head are out of luck.
“You’re only as good as your last game. Tomorrow’s another day,” warned Halak, who hasn’t allowed a goal in 144:41 of play and counting. “I’m definitely going to enjoy the moment, but there’s always some luck involved, too. The Sabres did hit a few posts.”
If Halak was unwilling to swig let alone sip his own Kool-Aid, his teammates were toasting pints filled with it after strengthening their hold on the No. 6 spot in the East.
“Having your goalie play the way Jaro is right now is big for all of us but especially for a defenseman,” explained Ryan O’Byrne, who notched the game-winner in the first period. “Knowing how strong he’s been back there allows us to just make plays and not worry about him making saves. His confidence has seeped into all of our games I think.
“At this time of year strong goaltending can transform a team,” continued O’Byrne. “A team with struggling goalies can’t help but walk on egg shells out there and seeing your goalie give up weak goals is a total momentum killer. All I know is we’ve got a brick wall back there right now and we’re all feeding off of that. ”
Clearly determined to earn their goalie his second-straight shutout, the Canadiens appeared to pull out all the stops in the dying moments of the game. Hal Gill however had other plans.
“Umm, don’t tell Jaro this, but I wasn’t even thinking about that,” smiled Gill, who may have bigger aspirations for he and teammates after winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins last spring. “I was more focused getting our hands on these two huge points.”
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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