Based on Halak’s stellar performance for Slovakia at the Olympics, Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette is talking about how Halak has “buttressed his status as a Number One goaltender in the NHL.”
So a handful of hot starts playing behind a solid defense (featuring Zdeno Chara) is suddenly proof that Halak is a legitimate starting goaltender in the NHL? I didn’t realize starter status was that easy to obtain. Does no one have any interest in using adequate sample sizes to measure goalie performance? Goalie 1 has a five-game hot streak, and he’s a god among men. Goalie 2 has a five-game cold streak, and he’s total garbage.
Let’s get this straight: Jaroslav Halak is a great young goalie prospect with a good chance of becoming an NHL starter, whether in Montreal or elsewhere. But he’s never started 50+ games in a season, won a playoff series, or shown he can be the man for longer than five consecutive starts (check the stats; historically, his performance invariably deteriorates around the five-game mark). He’s outplayed Price this season, without question, but Martin has also done his best to shield him from top-tier teams. Furthermore, because Halak’s starts have been carefully managed, we’ve never had the opportunity to see him slump for an extended period. Believe it or not, folks, Halak will have shaky stretches of play, he’ll fight the puck, and he’ll give up soft goals; essentially, he’ll go through what Price is going through now, which is to say, the normal course of development for a young NHL goalie. What happens then? If Price is still around, is he the hero again? Or if Price is gone, who’ll be the next backup goalie to be anointed the savior of the franchise?
At this point in time, it’s pointless to talk about either Halak or Price in absolute terms (though many fans love to do so). Both are young, both have lots of talent, and both have a lot to prove at the NHL level before we can christen either one ‘a Number One goaltender.’ How about we ease off on both the superlatives and the invective and let the kids develop properly?