Halak looked pretty ordinary in Slovakia’s 5-3 loss to Finland in the bronze medal game, giving up four goals on 32 shots. As I’ve discussed before, goals against and save percentage are questionable statistics on their own, but at least two of those goals were saveable shots that any “Number One goaltender” should make at the NHL level.
Good thing, though, that Halak is the backup goalie in Montreal, a position that carries no risk, and no pressure, only incredible adulation. Because it’s Halak, and we want to root for the plucky underdog, we shrug off this subpar performance; we’re not interested in making it speak to his trajectory as a goalie. Now imagine it’s Price giving up three goals, at least one of them quite weak, during one period of play in a medal game at the Olympics. You wouldn’t be able to escape the fire storm of questions about Price’s heart, aptitude, ability, readiness to play, ego, and ability to metabolize proteins in big-game situations.
Yet again, Halak has demonstrated that he is not currently capable of being on his game for more than five or six games. It’s not that losses reflect the issue; it’s that his play inevitably goes downhill around the five-game mark. It’s perfectly normal, by the way, the sign of a young goaltender whose ability to focus in pressure situations is still catching up to his talent and athleticism. But in light of last night’s loss, you have to wonder at pundits who are so ready to dub Halak the starter in Montreal. He may well be the starter of the future. But he’s not that player in the here and now.