Jaro vs. Goliath
In a game that most pundits predicted the Canadiens would never live to see, it was the Habs’ resident underdog who stepped into the limelight and completely stole the show. After watching him kick aside 53 of 54 shots to help force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night, Jaroslav Halak’s fan club is getting bigger by the minute.
"That was the best performance by a goalie I've ever been a part of. He was spectacular," shrugged Gorges in disbelief. "Jaro was just everywhere tonight. He won that game for us.”
Playoff veteran Brian Gionta was equally astonished about the goaltending clinic Halak had just put on for 21,273 screaming Bell Centre fans and a bench full of frustrated Caps snipers.
"It's definitely up there with some of the greatest performances I've seen," offered Gionta, whose time spent enjoying former Devils teammate Martin Brodeur earns him a free pass on that question. "He just kept making huge save after huge save. They had all kinds of great chances but he was always there."
While Gorges and Gio were still getting over having watched their netminder turn aside roughly two games’ worth of shots, Michael Cammalleri was busy dipping into his playoff repertoire to come up with a goaltending display that could possibly rival Halak’s opus in Game 6.
"Yeah I've seen a performance like that before. It was Friday night in Washington and I think his name was Halak," smiled Cammalleri, who potted a pair of goals and was named the game’s second star. "And he did it again tonight."
Despite having a highlight-reel full of spectacular saves to call on, it’s still no surprise to hear what the unfailingly humble netminder felt was his favorite moment of the game.
“The win. That’s what I liked best about the game,” stated Halak, whose 53 saves broke the previous franchise record of 49 saves in a regulation playoff game set by Ken Dryden in 1971. “No one even gave us a chance to win tonight, but we stuck to the game plan and we were playing hard and it paid off. It’s a great feeling but we’ve still got one more game ahead of us and now we’ve got to get ready.”
Most goaltenders abide by a “the more the better” philosophy when it comes to the number of pucks they like to see coming their way in a day’s work, and Halak is living proof of why.
“It gets me in the game when I have more shots but every game is different and anything can happen,” explained Halak, who won eight games in which he faced more than 45 shots this season. “Our guys did a great job because they blocked so many shots, especially on the 5-on-3. Hal Gill did an amazing job on the left side there and gave them no chances; it was like having a second goalie out there.”
While Gill may be second in the playoffs with 25 blocked shots, including a game-high five on Monday night, the towering blue-liner seems to be comfortable just sticking to his day job: shutting out the league’s best power play.
“Yeah we’ve been good on the kill but Jaro’s our biggest killer and he was huge,” admitted Gill, who helped keep the Caps at 0-for-6 with the man advantage in the game. “His glove was working and he made a lot of huge saves for us. He made us look good out there, that’s for sure.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - April 26, 2010