Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Jaroslav Halak Swatch Card

The Montréal Canadiens - and particularly their head coach Claude Julien and star goalie Carey Price (3.56 GAA, .886 save percentage) - are mired in a month-long funk that is seemingly without end, so facing former star goalie Jaroslav Halak - he of the near-perfect record against the Habs, especially in Montréal - was likely going to prove problematic, especially since he's in town with the rest of the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins in search of their fourth-straight win after a sub-par outing in Ottawa last week.

Wouldn't you know it, Price let in 5 goals on 11 shots while Halak stopped 36 of 37 en route to an 8-1 routing of the home team. This after Price, Julien and the Canadiens blew a 4-0 lead to lose 6-5 at the hands of the New York Rangers on home ice on Saturday.

This was Montréal's fifth-straight loss, and the masses are already speculating on who could take over behind the Canadiens' bench, the smart money betting safe on Associate-Coach Kirk Muller, Mike Babcock, Guy Boucher and current assistant Dominic Ducharme.

I believe the team will stay idle, but there are plenty of bench bosses I prefer to Julien, including Patrick Roy, Guy Carbonneau, Manitoba Moose bench boss Pascal Vincent, Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoît Groulx and - why not? - Ducharme, Boucher and Muller, in that order.

Not Babcock - he needs to sort his public image out, repent, and attempt to grow and change his ways a bit before he's given a second (fourth) chance. Furthermore, he seems like he's taking his former partners down with him - today it was Bill Peters' turn for alleged (and seemingly now-corroborated) racist behaviour, perhaps tomorrow it will be Boucher, a fellow McGill alumnus and another coach who uses mind games to motivate his players.

But back to the hero of the evening, Halak, who made news last week for his use of practice pads. He is on the last of a two-year deal with Boston that pays him $2.75M annually to play roughly the same amount of regular-season games as starter Tuuka Rask - who makes $7M - so that Rask can be rested come playoff time, a strategy that worked well enough to lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final last season. It's a thankless job, but he's shining in it, with a 2.39 GAA (7th in the NHL), a 5-1-3 record, a .930 save percentage (4th) and a shutout (tied for 7th). Other goalies aren't faring as well:
The Bruins are among the favourites to earn the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals given as a team, which would mark Halak's second such win. The first time, of course, was as a member of the St. Louis Blues, as can be seen on card #FOG-HAL from Panini's 2012-13 Certified set and Fabric Of The Game sub-set:
It is numbered 101/150 and is of the "Red / Mirror" variant; the swatch lies underneath a die-cut stencil of the word "Blues", fittingly, and features a prominent blue game-worn jersey swatch.

I got it on Ebay just last week for use at a much later date, but it was (physically) the closest piece of memorabilia to feature when I opted for Halak as my subject of the day.

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