Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Does Halak have one more left for Game Seven?


Can Jaroslav Halak do it one more time for the Montreal Canadiens in Game Seven on Wednesday? Photo: Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images

It’s been almost 24 hours since Jaroslav Halak gave the hockey world a playoff goaltending show for the ages. Everybody is still talking about the 53-save performance by the Montreal Canadiens netminder against the top offense in the NHL.

It’s not just Habs fans either. Leafs fans, Sens fans, Bruins fans, everybody is in awe of what happened Monday night.

Halak’s performance is already being ranked among some of the greatest in the Canadiens playoff history. Many will say that it is not the greatest as it was not during a Stanley Cup Final, but taking it as a single game, and depending on how old you are, it has to be in the top three.

Washington tried everything from tapping Halak’s mask to crashing his crease to phase him. It worked in Games Two and Three, but it’s not working anymore and now it’s the Capitals who are “shaking”.

An astounding stat for Halak is his 9-0-1 career record when his opponents score 40 or more shots. With the firepower of the Washington Capitals, can he have “Another day at the office” and take it to 10-0-1 on Wednesday night or can he just get the win with an easier night?

Well to do it, he’ll need help up front. The Canadiens forwards will need to score when possible and get shots on net as often as possible.

They’ve proven that Semyon Varlamov is not invincible, giving him his first career loss at the Bell Centre, but a less than 20 shot night may not be enough for the Canadiens in the deciding game.

Additional help from the supplemental cast in the third and fourth lines will again be needed as well. Maxim Lapierre led the support charge in Game Six. Can he repeat that, or does someone else step forward this time.

Fans can only hope that Jaroslav Spacek’s virus is finally gone for Wednesday night. If the only Canadiens blueliner that seems to have Alex Ovechkin’s number game-in and game out is there, it is a huge burden off the shoulders of the other five rearguards. In other words the shot count and quality of said shots should be easily reduced. Add in the sparkplug play of P.K. Subban and things will be difficult for the Capitals.

From there it falls to special teams. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau could pull a desperation move and use Scott Walker, who has yet to play this series, in an effort to stir things up and rattle the Canadiens cage. The Pittsburgh Penguins did that successfully with Georges Laraque two seasons ago.

If Montreal can stay disciplined though, and avoid unnecessary penalty calls or a trio of diving calls, then we should see them in a Game One against Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Go Habs Go!

An unlikely comparison: It was funny to hear Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri on Tuesday, as he compared Jaroslav Halak’s play, and ability to perform under fire, to a goaltender he watched growing up, Allan Bester. What?

Well actually he has a point, win-loss results withstanding.

Growing up north of Toronto as I did, the Habs sniper saw Bester in his busiest two seasons (1988-90) with the Maple Leafs. The diminutive goalie was sometimes all the blue and white had as he saw an average of 30 shots against per game. I seem to recall a four or more game run where the Leafs netminder faced a minimum of 40 shots per game and still gave his team a chance. I’d need a Leafs historian to verify it though.

Best Facebook Status: Tyler McKinna from NHLDigest, “Chuck Norris carries a Jaroslav Halak lunchbox.”

Game 6 Goal Analysis: Chris and Robert at "Habs Eyes on the Prize" have worked their tails off breaking down the goals in all six games thus far. Well done guys, but you need a break. How about a 1-0 Habs win to rest up for Round Two?

A Fan’s Game Prep: A reader of Dennis Kane’s blog offers his preparation for a big game.

From the Notebook: J.T. from “The H does hot stand for Habs” offers some Game Seven eve thoughts and notes.

Five Keys to Game Seven: From canadiens.com

The Right Stuff: Yves on Habs shows the Canadiens have what it takes to win the series.

Suffering withdrawals: For the first time since Sept 29, I didn’t have to load my goalie gear into the car on a Tuesday night. I gotta find a spring/summer league in the GTA!

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