The Boston Bruins and goaltender Jaroslav Halak parted ways this offseason. After three seasons with the black and gold, the 36-year-old goaltender is heading to Vancouver to backup goaltender Thatcher Demko. This leaves rookie goaltender Jeremey Swayman and the newly acquired goaltender Linus Ullmark to split time in net for the Bruins.
Prior to Boston
Prior to joining the Bruins, Halak had played for four other NHL teams: the Montreal Canadiens, the St. Louis Blues, the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders. He began his NHL career with the Canadiens back in the 2006-2007 season. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Canadiens 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff run and Jaroslav Halak’s performance during that run.
To this day it is still referred to as one of the most prolific goaltending performances of recent memory. They say you don’t want to run into a hot goaltender in the playoffs. Well, Jaroslav Halak was a man possessed that post season. Halak helped lead the Canadiens from down 3-1 in a series against an offensive powerhouse of a Washington Capitals team. Not to mention an absurd game six victory where Halak faced 54 shots and only let in one goal. Then they beat out the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburg Penguins before finally losing out to the Philadelphia Flyers. It was an unbelievable performance by the netminder.
That performance left Montreal with a lot to ponder that offseason. With Carey Price also in the fold, the franchise had to move on from one of the goaltenders, and Halak was the odd man out. He was traded to St. Louis and became “the guy” for the Blues. After four seasons with the Blues, he was traded and flipped from Buffalo to Washington for their Cup run in the 2013-2014 season. After that, he then signed with the New York Islanders for four years.
From Starter to Backup with the Bruins
Halak spent a lot of his career as a split starter, or a “1A/1B” as it is often referred to in hockey. In Montreal, it was him and Carey Price splitting the starts. Towards the end of his time in St. Louis, the net was shared between him, Brian Elliot, Jake Allen and, for a short time, Ryan Miller. The same happened for most of his time with New York as well, where he and Thomas Greiss became a very strong one-two punch for the Islanders.
In the offseason prior to the start of the 2018-2019 season, Halak signed with the Boston Bruins. At the age of 34, he accepted the backup role behind starter Tuukka Rask. This signing by General Manager Don Sweeney may have arguably been his best free agent acquisition to date. With Halak as the backup, the team was able to reduce Rask’s workload during the regular season. This alone made Halak a key component in a very successful 2018-2019 season, which took them all the way to the cup final.
Recipe for Success?
When Halak signed with the Bruins, he was one of the more handsomely paid backups in the league. However, now you are starting to see more teams follow this blueprint. Less and less teams are riding their starting goaltender for 60-70 games out of the season, and more are looking to put less wear and tear on their starting goaltenders by getting a suitable backup. I won’t go as far as to say the Bruins came up with this method, but they’re example “A” for it working.
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-Josh Croteau (@_JCRO on Twitter)
Image Source: usatoday.com