Capitals Top Five Plays Of The Week -- 4/7
When a team with a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup trades its No. 1 goalie to a last-place team for its No. 1 goalie, words can’t describe the hurt.
“Obviously, I wasn’t happy when I got traded,” said Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was sent from the St. Louis Blues to the Buffalo Sabres in a March 1 trade that sent Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis.
“You’re trying to build something with the team. You try to play well for them and then you get traded,” Halak said. “It’s part of the job, part of the business, but at the same time they were great people, the whole team and coaching staff and everybody there. Obviously, I have great memories.”
Tuesday night, Halak has a chance to create another memory when the Capitals visit the Blues with their playoff lives at stake. A win over the Blues and the Caps stay alive in their quest for a wild-card spot. A loss and their playoff hopes could vanish.
But will Halak get the chance to face his former team?
“Possibly,” said Caps coach Adam Oates, who saw Braden Holtby play well in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders Saturday night.
Halak clearly wants the opportunity to face his old teammates.
“I played there four years, I know these guys,” he said. ‘We’ll see. Obviously, I’m looking forward to going back there.”
In 40 games with the Blues this season Halak went 24-9-4 with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. It wasn’t enough to win the confidence of Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.
Six days after being sent to Buffalo, where he never played a game, Halak was traded to the Capitals for Michal Neuvirth with the hopes that he would catch fire the way he did in the 2010 playoffs when he led the eighth-seeded Canadiens to a first-round playoff comeback against the top-seeded Capitals.
He hasn’t. In 11 games since arriving in D.C., Halak has gone 4-4-3 with a 2.53 GAA and .923 save percentage. In 15 games for the Blues since replacing Halak, Miller has gone 10-4-1 with 2.15 GAA and .915 save percentage.
[For what it’s worth , since going to Buffalo, Neuvirth has played in just two games, going 0-2-0 with a 2.456 GAA and .949 save percentage].
Halak has danced this dance once before. After being traded from Montreal to St. Louis in the summer of 2010, he faced the Canadiens nearly nine months later in St. Louis, stopping 27 shots in a 4-1 victory in St. Louis.
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“This is a little different,” Halak said. “This [trade] happened a month ago, so it’s still fresh. I have a mix of emotions right now, but I’m looking forward to go back.”
Despite losing two games in a row the Blues lead the Western Conference with 111 points, rank fourth in the NHL with 245 goals, and rank third in the league with 177 goals against.
“Whether I play or Holtsy plays we need to do our job,” Halak said. “We need to stop the puck. They have some really good guys that can score some goals and they play a team game.”