He shocked an entire league by morphing from part-time starter to all-world goaltender who owned Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. He put an entire city on his back and thrilled its people with his team’s deepest playoff run in almost 20 years. And finally, he was dealt for a guy named Lars.
Yes, of course, I’m talking about Jaroslav Halak’s 2010 springtime.
Much has been written about Halak being traded to St. Louis, with passionate voices being heard on both sides. To add context (and perhaps fuel) to the ongoing discourse surrounding the Halak move, I decided to look at his 2010 playoff performance in the light of the many wonderful playoff performances turned in by Montreal Canadiens goalies since Ken Dryden’s rookie season. I went back to the 1971 playoff season and isolated every single series performance turned in by a Montreal Canadiens goalie who had started at least three games in the relevant series. The results are visible in the table below. I concatenated three variables to create a code representing each series performance: goalie name-playoff year-round number. (e.g. Dryden-1979-2 for Ken Dryden’s performance in the second round in 1979).
As the table shows, Halak’s magisterial first round performance against Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals is among the top five single series performances turned in by a Canadiens goalie since 1971 (measured by aggregate save percentage in that series):
1. Steve Penney, 1984, Round 1 vs. Boston: .974 save percentage
2. Ken Dryden, 1976, Round 2 vs. Chicago: .973 save percentage
3. Ken Dryden, 1977, Round 2 vs. St. Louis: .962 save percentage
4. Patrick Roy, 1989, Round 3 vs. Philly: .940 save percentage
5. Jaroslav Halak, 2010, Round 1 vs. Washington: .939 save percentage
More impressive is the fact that he posted this save percentage while facing an average of 40.4 shots per 60 minutes played. Of the other goalies who registered top 5 single series performances, none faced more than 28 shots per 60 minutes. From a puck bombardment standpoint, the 40.4 shots per 60 minutes that Halak endured are the second most ever faced by a Canadiens goalie in a single playoff series, a hair behind the firestorm unleashed on Dryden by Boston in the 1971 playoffs (40.7).
In summary, when Halak was working his magic this spring, he was operating on a truly rarefied plateau. His heroics against Washington should be mentioned anytime discussions occur about the greatest Montreal Canadiens playoff goaltending performances.